Realism And Grotesque In Gullivers Travels English Literature Essay

Gulliver ‘s Travels is a polar work in the history of the novel as it exhibits the ways the novel inherits and develops Menippean sarcasm and grotesque aesthetics. Gulliver ‘s Travels has seldom been regarded as a proper early novel like Robinson Crusoe or Pamela mostly due to two conventional apprehensions of genre and aesthetics. The first common apprehension is that the novel and Menippean sarcasm are reciprocally sole genres. Critics have turned to Menippean sarcasm as if to reason that the genre of Gulliver ‘s Travels is sort of a prose fiction that is non the novel. Northrop Frye, for case, begins his treatment of Gulliver ‘s Travels by adverting that “ most people would name Gulliver ‘s Travels fiction but non a novel. It must so be another signifier of fiction, ” i.e. Menippean sarcasm ( 308 ) . In bend, critics who claim Gulliver ‘s Travels as a fresh tend to disregard the Menippean tradition of the work ; Maximillian Novak asserts that “ once we consider Gulliver ‘s Travels as a work of fiction, we can non shunt it off into a nonmeaningful class such as anatomy or Menippean sarcasm, ” in his reading of the work as a picaresque novel ( 35 ) . The 2nd conventional thought is that “ the grotesque ” and “ pragmatism ” are besides two disparate aesthetic kingdom, and that grotesque aesthetics in Gulliver ‘s Travels- from its usage of the antic, metabolism, or the huffy adult male subject to its “ excremental vision ” -does non fit into the “ realistic ” aesthetic of the novel. The looking generic instability of Gulliver ‘s Travels largely derives from our preconceived impression of the novel as a genre of likely pragmatism with verisimilar characters and plausible secret plans. In fact, even the most acute critics of Swift are non wholly free from this prevalent given impression of what the novel should be. Brean Hammond, who appropriates Bakhtin ‘s construct of “ novelisation ” to explicate the cultural displacements of the long 18th century toward a “ hybridisation that breaks down traditionally ascertained generic boundaries, ” surprisingly turns to a conventional impression of the “ fresh ” when he argues that Gulliver ‘s Travels is non a novel like Robinson Crusoe partially because Gulliver is non a character like Crusoe, “ a character who is a believable estimate of a human being, ” -i.e. a verisimilar character-but “ a device that can be exploited for satiric intents ” ( 250, 270 ) . Hammond is right that “ [ Gulliver ‘s Travels ] is ideologically opposed to the set of attitudes and beliefs that was fuelling the development of the novel as a genre ” ; portion of the purpose of the work lies in the lampoon of Robinson Crusoe or “ the material of 1720s love affair… by Haywood, ” as he comments ( 270 ) . That does non intend, nevertheless, that Gulliver ‘s Travels is non a novel. Swift might hold intended his Menippean work partially as a Scriblerian sarcasm that attacks modern drudge Hagiographas. Paradoxically, or harmonizing to the procedure of “ novelisation, ” nevertheless, Gulliver ‘s Travels turned out to be a important add-on to the novelistic tradition ; the novelistic energies that Swift despised and denigrated boomeranged and informed his sarcasm, and transformed it into a novel. Gulliver ‘s Travels is non thoroughly explained by our conventional impression of the novel, but it does non intend that it is non a novel. Rather, Swift ‘s work characteristically challenges our common impression of the novel, and reveals the rich tradition of Menippean sarcasm that is absorbed in the novel.

In a similar vena, the grotesque aesthetics of Gulliver ‘s Travels belies our confined impression of pragmatism, or realistic aesthetics. It manifests that ( novelistic ) pragmatism is non limited to “ likely ” pragmatism, a mixture of empirical episteme and the modern transmutation of classical mimetic aesthetics, but besides involves “ low ” realism-crudely put, an opposite word of idealism or classicalism. At a superficial degree, the grotesque and pragmatism could look like two offprint or about opposite impressions. Geoffrey Harpham and Mikhail Bakhtin, nevertheless, illustrate that the grotesque and pragmatism are compatible impressions at a cardinal degree, and that the history of the grotesque is besides the history of the acknowledgment of that compatibility. Harpham provides a utile history of the displacement of the impression of the relation between the grotesque and pragmatism. Harmonizing to him, while the Renaissance “ regarded grottesche as pure phantasy, ” “ in the eighteenth and 19th centuries we find [ the grotesque ] associated with imitation in.. .Rowlandson, Hogarth, Goya… , most of whom we would non tie in with antic art, ” and “ by the beginning of the twentieth century.. .Thomas Mann commented.. .that the grotesque was ‘properly something more than the truth, something existent in the extreme. ‘ ” Harmonizing to this narrative, the history of the grotesque is a gradual acknowledgment of the basically realistic feature of the Grotesque, which is distinguishable from the mimetic pragmatism of the Classical ( xviii-xix ) . Bakhtin offers another powerful narrative on the history of the grotesque, or the intricate relation of the grotesque and pragmatism. The grotesque and pragmatism are about synonymous for Bakhtin, as is epitomized in his core term of “ monstrous pragmatism. ” “ Grotesque pragmatism, ” which “ lower [ s ] all that is high, religious, ideal, abstract ” and “ is opposed to severance from the stuff and bodily roots of the universe, ” is culminated in the literature of the Renaissance after the mediaeval civilization of common people wit ( 19-20, 32 ) . As starkly opposed to “ classical aesthetics, ” “ monstrous pragmatism ” is closely linked to some other cardinal constructs of Bakhtin, like “ the carnival spirit, ” “ the stuff bodily rule, ” “ common people wit, ” or “ the ambivalent and renewing laughter of the people. ” Bakhtin besides historicizes the construct of the grotesque, restricting monstrous pragmatism to “ the Renaissance grotesque, ” although he underscores the life tradition of Renaissance grotesque pragmatism in universe literature. He explains that the Renaissance grotesque is reduced and transformed in later periods, and therefore “ the Romantic grotesque ” ( and “ the modernist grotesque ” ) is more like “ an single carnival, marked by a graphic sense of isolation, “ losing laughter ‘s renewing power. “ ( 37 ) .

One noteworthy component in Bakhtin ‘s historicization of the grotesque is, nevertheless, that the eighteenth-century grotesque is about unseeable between the Renaissance grotesque and the Romantic grotesque. One ground would be, as Bakhtin implies, that the 18th century straight inherited the Renaissance grotesque but besides embedded “ the elements of classicalism ” or “ cold rationalism ” : a clip that the positive bodily exaggeration of Rabelais and the businessperson disciplined organic structure were uncomfortably commingled and intensely struggled with each other. Thus the eighteenth-century grotesque was the infinite in which the Renaissance battle between the Grotesque and the Classical was continued in a displaced signifier of the battle between the lingering force of the Renaissance grotesque and now go uping businessperson rationalism, “ classical businessperson ground. ” The Augustan formal poetry sarcasm of Dryden, Pope, or Swift played out the unprecedentedly intense contention between the classical-rational and the grotesque through an uneven mixture of refined, sophisticated signifiers and disorderly, brimming-over contents. Swift besides embodies the acrimonious struggle of the classical-rational and the grotesque through ( the relation of ) the Houyhnhnms and the Yahoos in Gulliver ‘s Travels, a Menippean sarcasm and a novel, which unusually displays the curious feature of the eighteenth-century grotesque.

Although critics have progressively acknowledged that Gulliver ‘s Travels is a Menippean sarcasm, there are few elaborate readings of the work in the Menippean tradition, peculiarly in relation to Bakhtin ‘s construct of the genre as an reliable precursor of the novel. While size uping the relation of the Houyhnhnms and the Yahoos as a privileged venue of the Swiftian grotesque, the political dimension of the grotesque will be revealed, which is embedded in the Yahoos as an fable of the Irish, or colonial topics, and so briefly analyze the political dimension of ( low ) pragmatism.

The Menippean antic normally generates three effects, which are to the full used in Gulliver ‘s Travels. First, the antic escapade provides a new, non-human position that defamiliarizes our accustomed universe, or debunks our accustomed, human-centred manner of thought. As Bakhtin describes, it “ provoke [ Es ] and trial [ s ] a truth ” by utilizing the “ observation from some unusual point of position, from on high, for illustration, which consequences in a extremist alteration in the graduated table of the ascertained phenomena of life ” ( 116 ) . Second, the Menippean antic engages popular imaginativeness or a amusing, carnivalesque spirit ; the popularity of Gulliver ‘s Travels, peculiarly as a authoritative kids ‘s book, is well indebted to this folkloric imaginativeness embedded in the antic. Third, the antic offers an juncture to review the writer ‘s ( and the false reader ‘s ) modern-day world, normally by conceive ofing an inverted universe or a Utopian society. In the imagined infinites of Lilliput, Brobdingnag, Laputa, or Houyhnhnmland ( or Yahooland ) , Swift cuttingly criticizes the domestic policies of England every bit good as the overall imperialism of Europe.

Gulliver ‘s first repast at the Brobdingnagian husbandman ‘s house illustrates how the three degrees of the fantastic- ” ultimate inquiries, ” popular laughter, and a review of modern-day reality-are at the same time generated in Gulliver ‘s Travels. When the husbandman ‘s married woman gave him something to eat and imbibe, Gulliver says he:

made her a low bow, took out my knife and fork, and fell to eat, which gave them transcending delectation… .1 took up the vas with much trouble in both custodies, and in a most respectful mode drank to her Ladyship ‘s wellness, showing the words every bit loud as I could in English, which made the company laugh so heartily, that I was about deafened with the noise. ” ( 85 ) .

To conceive of Gulliver taking out his fork and knife from his “ charming ” pockets, in which he seems to hold everything necessary wherever he is stranded, is surely screaming. Apart from that, why is this scene full of wit, and why does the reader participate in the Brobdingnagians ‘ delectation and laughter at Gulliver ‘s actions? To utilize “ knife and fork ” in feeding is a common usage in eighteenth-century Europe, and to “ imbibe to her Ladyship ‘s wellness ” “ in a most respectful mode ” is besides a well-bred behaviour. Yet from the position of the Brobdingnagians, to whom Gulliver is like “ a little unsafe animate being ” or “ a unusual animate being ” at first ( 83, 90 ) , his socially tailored and excessively polite behaviours could look affected or pathetic largely because of the incongruousness between “ a unusual animate being ” and his pretence to be a absolutely civilized adult male. Their elephantine position makes us see Gulliver ‘s pride in his being a gentleman who acts harmonizing to the societal codification, and by extension, the pride of all world in his or her sole claim to high civilisation. Furthermore, a non-human position renders the European mode of utilizing knife and fork or doing a gallant compliment on the hostess non so much absolute societal etiquette but one cultural usage among many cultural possibilities. To Brobdingnagians, it makes small difference whether a little animate being like Gulliver uses knife and fork ( as in Europe ) or his fingers ( as in some other civilizations ) , although utilizing fingers for nutrient is an univocal mark of brutality from a European position. Likewise, a low screening of gratitude for nutrient would be every bit good as a flamboyant show of a toast for the hostess in a Brobdingnagian ‘s position.

The Olympic position of the Brobdingnagians, which about innocently exposes the limited position of human existences, besides serves as a device of a terrible onslaught on human folly or pride. When Gulliver finished his “ speaking of [ his ] ain darling state, ” the Brobdingnagin male monarch “ could non hold back taking [ Gulliver ] up in his right manus, and stroking [ him ] gently with the other, after an hearty tantrum of express joying, asked [ him ] whether [ he was ] a Whig or a Tory. Then turning to his first ministeraˆ¦ he observed how contemptible a thing was human magnificence, which could be mimicked by such bantam insects as I ” ( 100 ) . What makes the male monarch ‘s rhetorical inquiry incisive does non deduce from any political considerations but from the sheer size difference between the male monarch and Gulliver ; the male monarch ‘s gesture of “ stroking [ Gulliver ] gently ” with his left manus nullifies a pressure job in eighteenth-century England into a fiddling or nonmeaningful one. The extortionate pride and atrocity of worlds, which the male monarch points out repeatedly, looks more absurd in the frame where giants are “ human ” and Gulliver is a “ bantam insect. ” We humans become “ the most baneful race of small abominable varmint ” or an “ impotent and fawning an insect ” ( 123, 125 ) from a Brobdingnagians ‘s position. Laugh is reduced to the degree of resentment here.

The antic convention of Menippean sarcasm is entangled with another chief convention of the genre: metabolism. Gulliver ‘s travels into antic lands are coterminous with his experiences of metabolism into a unusual, monstrous, unnatural or monstrous being. Metamorphosis, like the antic, holds a formal generic significance as opposed to the classical aesthetics of high genres. It “ destroy [ s ] the heroic poem and tragic integrity of a individual and his destiny: the possibility of another individual and another life are revealed in himaˆ¦ he ceases to co-occur with himself, ” as Bakhtin notes. To compare Gulliver ‘s antic travels and Odysseus ‘s heroic poem journey around their brush with a “ monster ” and its consequence on their individualities is lighting. When Odysseus confronts a barbarian monster, Polyphemus, it is “ his destiny and his character ” to get the better of the Cyclops by utilizing his trickeries, as is evidenced in Polyphemus ‘ later callback of the prognostication. Throughout his long journey, Odysseus ‘s individuality ne’er alterations, despite his varied camouflages, with any brushs with monsters, like Charibdis, Scylla, or Circe. The boundary between a hero and a monster, or the ego and the other, can non be blurred in Odysseus. In contrast, Gulliver ‘s brushs with elephantine Brobdingnagians, which he intelligibly regarded as monsters at first ( “ seven monsters like himself came toward him… ” 82 ) , shakes his individuality to the nucleus. While the Brobdignagians regard themselves as “ worlds, ” it is Gulliver who becomes a monster, or an unnatural anomalousness among those “ worlds. ” The bookmans of Brobdingnag nem con conclude that Gulliver is “ Lusus Naturae, ” or a monster of nature ( 98 ) . Metamophorsis assumes a pervading line between a hero and a monster, and Gulliver ‘s experience of being transformed into a monster among the pygmy Lilliputians or the elephantine Brobdingnagians ( every bit far as to see himself as a monster ) manifests a different construct of ego and the other in Menippean sarcasm from that in high genres like The Odyssey. While Odysseus unfailingly defeats assorted monsters in his manner place to restore his ( societal ) individuality, Gulliver suffers being transformed into monstrous figures in his antic escapades merely to be “ huffy ” when he is back place.

Gulliver ‘s experience as a grotesque being is non merely important in the frame of the antic but besides holds a strong societal resonance-to people in the border or fringe, a metaphoric transmutation into a grotesque being is neither rare nor eccentric, anyhow. Gulliver ‘s uneven tests in Brobdingnag or Lilliput non merely affect going a symbolic monster, like a “ bantam insect ” or “ Man-Mountain, ” but besides mean being thrown into a socially low, unstable place, like a slave or a extremely vulnerable courtier. In Brobdingnag, Gulliver has to travel through “ the shame of being carried about for a monster, ” “ till [ he is ] half dead with fatigue and annoyance ” since now he is “ [ his ] maestro ‘s slave ” ( 92, 93, 95 ) . Likewise, despite the high rubric of Nardac in Lilliput, Gulliver is notified of his friend ‘s “ generous ” proposal to acquire him blind and finally starved to decease as an option to capital penalty, on which Gulliver says “ holding ne’er been designed for a courtier either by my birth or educationaˆ¦ 1 could non detect the lenience and favour of this sentence ” ( 69 ) .

Gulliver ‘s denial of his ain individuality, or the denial of his freak among the “ normal ” dwellers of Brobdignag, surely anticipates his entire “ transition ” in Houyhnhnmland, his fervent want to be like the Houyhnhnms and the repetitive denial of his Yahooness. And every bit much as the antic lands are overlapped with the existent universe, Gulliver ‘s denial of his abject, grotesque individuality so as to be like his dominant “ Masterss ” comes to mean the split individuality of a colonial topic. In fact, Gulliver ‘s shifting and conflicting capable places ( as a colonized and a coloniser ) throughout the whole narrative prepares him for his ultimate “ lunacy, ” a entire split individuality between his Yahooness and his desire to be a Houyhnhnm.

The eventual lunacy of Gulliver, who “ ever maintain [ s his ] nose good stopped with herb of grace, lavender, or baccy foliages ” to avoid “ the [ violative ] odor of a Yokel ” ( 271 ) , or “ converse [ s ] with [ his Equus caballuss ] at least four hours every twenty-four hours ” to better his virtuousness ( 266 ) , reflects non so much Swift ‘s blunt misanthropy but a common Menippean experiment with a split ego. As is typical of Menippean sarcasm, Gulliver ‘s lunacy contains a amusing component. Even the most serious reader would smile at the minutes like “ every bit shortly as I entered the house, my married woman took me in her weaponries, and kissed me, at which holding non been used to the touch of that abominable animate being for so many old ages, I fell in a faint for about an hr ” ( 265 ) , or “ I feel my liquors revived by the odor [ the groom ] contracts in the stable ” ( 266 ) .

Scattered throughout Bakhtin ‘s plants, we can happen mentions to Swift as a cardinal writer in the 18th century, who inherited and developed the Renaissance grotesque and Menippean imaginativeness: “ the contents of the carnival-grotesque elementaˆ¦ were preservedaˆ¦ in the work of Swift… ” ; “ this line of experimental fantasicality continuesaˆ¦ in Rabelais, Swift, Voltaire and others. ” Yet there seem to be some noteworthy differences between the Renaissance or Rabelaisian grotesque ( that Bakhtin emphasiss ) and the Swiftian grotesque. A conspicuous illustration of this difference is the curious image of the organic structure in Swift, his “ excremental vision, ” or the trademark of his scatological imagination. Bakhtin explains that in Rabelais ‘s grotesque pragmatism, “ the bodily component is profoundly positive… it is opposed to severance from the stuff and bodily roots of the universe ” ( 19 ) . As any reader would note, nevertheless, the organic structure image in Gulliver ‘s Travels is difficult to be described as “ profoundly positive. ” Swift ‘s organic structure is instead full of foul, ugly, ugly, burdensome, obscene, or scatological images. Gulliver ‘s description of the “ monstrous chest ” of a nurse in Brobdingnag ( “ … the hue both of [ the nipple ] and the dug so varified with musca volitanss, hickeies and lentigos, that nil could look more nauseating ” 87 ) , or of a adult female mendicant in the state “ with a malignant neoplastic disease in her chest, swelled to a monstrous size, full of holes ” ( 105 ) , is merely a twosome of memorable illustrations that display negative images of the organic structure in Gulliver ‘s Travels. Swift ‘s organic structure besides does non affect the image of “ brimming-over, ” “ ambivalency, ” or “ regeneration, ” which Bakhtin asserts are the nucleus rules of “ the stuff bodily lower stratum ” in the Renaissance grotesque. In Gulliver ‘s Travels the overdone bodily image becomes distressing “ satiety, ” from which “ all diseases arise ” ( 233 ) , or the ultimate perpetrator of bodily diseases. Human existences are ill because “ we eat when we were non hungry, and drank without the aggravation of thirst ” ( 233 ) , as Gulliver references to his maestro Houhynhnm.

Gulliver ‘s Travels embodies the intimate relation of the grotesque-allegorical and pragmatism in its ain curious mode.

Gulliver ‘s Travels is a important work in the treatment of pragmatism in the novel partially because it illustrates how monstrous aesthetics, a important portion of low pragmatism, positively invokes the writer ‘s “ bad ” modern-day world. If pragmatism still affairs, one ground lies in that it evokes the entangled relation between text and universe, the existent universe in which all sorts of subjugation, restraints, or injustice-i. e. the objects of Swift ‘s satire-are still go oning. It is non surprising that the definition of pragmatism is so assorted as to look about meaningless, for the definition of world is so much different as that of pragmatism, depending on each person or each period ; footings like psychological pragmatism, antic pragmatism, or historical pragmatism, already connote what the user of the term thinks is the cardinal reality-psychology, phantasy, or history. The political dimension of pragmatism constitutes an built-in portion of it since pragmatism involves an inevitable inquiry of whose world is at interest. Houyhnhnmland is besides Yahooland, harmonizing to whose world is dominant. The Houyhnhnms have had arguments for ages about the “ extinction ” of the Yahoos, but the Yahoos in bend seem to be ready to hold rebellion or mutiny, given a aggravation, like the dwellers of Lindalino. Swift gives a most atrocious signifier to the Yahoos, and even does non give a voice to them: they merely “ ululation. ” However, he makes the reader see that Houyhnhnmland is besides Yahooland, non explicitly however, but still strongly and disturbingly.