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Human achievements in a nutshell - Gulliver's Travels

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Gulliver literature Humanity Weapon War King
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Human achievements #

In the extract from Part II, Gulliver is at the court of the King of the Giants, explaining to his Majesty the invention of gunpowder to thank him for his favour/advantages. Gulliver explains/carefully points out the effects of the substance, and even offers to instruct the King’s workmen on how to make and use it in the event of a rebellion. His Majesty is filled with horror at its dire consequences/description and orders Gulliver never to mention it again. The protagonist does not seem upset by the King’s reaction, however. He patronisingly attributes it to the short-sightness of the king’s cultural views, which have been limited by his country’s isolation from the rest of the world, and by the fact that, unlike Europeans, the Giants have not yet turned politics into a science. Readers, of course, can’t/could identify with Gulliver’s blind belief in the superiority of Western civilisation. The protagonist’s physical smallness/appearance is a symbol of his moral unworthiness, and his role/unreliability as a narrator adds a satirical bite to Swift’s message in the novel.

The king is surprised that such a small creature could invent such inhumane weapons. The king considers Gulliver as an enemy to mankind.

Swift wants to describe the pettiness of the English society. He is horrified by the effects that gunpowder can have on people. The good person here could be the king, and the bad one Gulliver. Gulliver is describing a scientific invention, Swift wants to show the reader that

In our professor’s opinion, Gulliver feels superior, because he doesn’t understand the king’s reaction, and is telling that his reaction is maybe linked to a sort of ignorance, common to the Giants, who haven’t reduced politics into a science, as the more acute wits of Europe have done.

In my opinion, the way gunpowder was described is the same as how the nuclear bomb is described nowadays. A nuclear bomb can wipe an entire city, same as a big gunpowder bomb, but the effects of radiation last for dozens of years. People are frightenened to talk about the consequences of a nuclear war, as we have seen that in the last year with the war near Europe. The king is horrified at the prospect of whole cities being wiped off the face of the Earth, and now some people are terrified of the possibility of the entire human civilization being burnt to the ground after the click of a button.