“A dark picture of political institutions and manners” has been presented in Gulliver’s Travels by the supreme satirist of English literature, Jonathan Swift, based on his practical experience in politics and politicians. His experience had shown him the hidden springs of power and the part played by corruption and intrigue.
Gulliver’s Travels throws the light of superior and destructive irony upon the smallness of means, the verity of motives, the illusion of the catchwords through which kings retained thrones. These elements of contemporary politics and politicians have been reflected in the characters and philosophies of the Lilliputians emperor and the king of Brobdingnag.
The Living Formations And Conditions of Lilliputian Emperor And The Brobdingnag King
The difference between the emperor of Lilliput and the King of Brobdingnag is mainly their formations and conditions of living. To find out the similarities and differences between these two rulers, we must consider the extraordinary situations of their countries and lives.
The people of Lilliput are just six inches tall, and the emperor of Lilliput is taller than a normal Lilliputian by the breadth of Gulliver’s nail. Therefore, his size and strength must influence his mental formation.
Conversely, the king of Brobdingnag is the ruler of the people who are sixty feet tall. Gulliver, who was called a ‘man mountain’ in Lilliput, becomes a dwarf.
The king of big giants like the Brobdingnagians must have opinions compatible with his size and strength. The smaller the man is, the meaner his mind is; on the other hand, the greater the man is, the broader his mind is.
The Mental Attitude of The Lilliputian Emperor
The emperor of Lilliput and the King of Brobdingnag are not comparable in height and size, so they are not and cannot be similar in their mental attitudes. The emperor of Lilliput and the king of Brobdingnag are both inquisitive of Gulliver. However, their natures of inquisitiveness are pretty different.
Gulliver was arrested when he reached the land of Lilliput, but by dint of his intelligence, he becomes a favorite with the emperor. The emperor of Lilliput believes himself to be the delight and terror of the universe, but the whole thing appears to be absurd to Gulliver.
The emperor of Lilliput selects the high officials of the court through contests. These contests also serve as diversions for the emperor and the countries. Rope-dancing is one of the items of contests. Candidates require being skillful in this art.
Another contest requires candidates to creep under a stick held by the Emperor in his hands. The candidates, who can show greater agility, are rewarded with one of the three silken threads of blue, red, and green colors.
The Ambition of The Lilliputian Emperor
The emperor of Lilliput wants to rule over the universe. So, he wants to bring Blefuscu under his sovereignty as he is already at war with Blefuscu. He has already crippled their naval power with the help of Gulliver, yet he is not satisfied and wants Gulliver to destroy Blefuscu’s entire ship.
However, Gulliver refuses to do so, and the emperor becomes displeased with him. He even plans to punish Gulliver. The emperor wants to destroy the Big-Endian living in Blefuscu and compel them to break the smaller end of their eggs.
Thus, the emperor reveals his imperialistic attitude. Swift here ridicules the ‘immeasurable ambition of the Princes.’ He satirizes the Machiavellian policy of routing gut the enemy of the then King.
The Mental Attitude of The King of Brobdingnag
The king of Brobdingnag is an entirely different man. Being amazed at the diminutive creature that Gulliver was, the king sends for three great scholars of his country to examine the body of Gulliver and explain how Gulliver came to have such a small body.
The king takes pleasure in conversing with Gulliver. He inquires into the nature of their political institutions. He wants to know about their manners, religion, laws, government, and learning of Europe. Nonetheless, the king makes adverse comments on them after having a clear understanding and an exact judgment.
The king regards Europe as if it were an ant-hill. He exclaims with surprise,
“How contemptible a thing was human grandeur which could be mimicked by such diminutive insects.”The King of Brobdingnag, Gulliver’s Travels.
The Lilliputian Empire in Contrast with The Brobdingnag
The kingdom of Brobdingnag has the distinguishing excellence in the maintenance of law and order. Lilliput does not have the calmness and commonsense of Brobdingnag. The Lilliputian empire is fraught with war, and it raises a war over a minor issue like breaking an egg.
The more petite men like the Lilliputians have all the negative qualities: avarice, hypocrisy, perfidy, cruelty, rage, madness, hatred, envy, lust, malice, and ambition. The Emperor of Lilliput does not try to cure his subjects of all these evil qualities. So, his country is a heap of conspiracies, rebellions, murders, massacres, and banishment.
The king of Brobdingnag is struck with horror at the destructive power of gunpowder. He considers that Gulliver’s native men must be a very mean and low creatures to entertain such inhuman ideas. On the other hand, the emperor of Lilliput wants to use Gulliver to destroy his enemy.
Swift uses these two rulers of Lilliput and Brobdingnag to express his hatred against the vices of politics and politicians. The king of Brobdingnag is his mouthpiece to voice his condemnation of the objectionable practices prevailing in England.
The emperor of Lilliput represents the king of England under whom all kinds of malpractices in society and politics were allowed to continue. The king upholds benevolent rule for humanity, while the emperor symbolizes anti-human imperialistic and aggressive political power.