The Use of Size as a Metaphor in Gulliver’s Travels

The research paper The Use of Size as a Metaphor in Gulliver’s Travels analyzes the use of metaphors in the story Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. One of these metaphors is the varying size of the title character Gulliver as he travels throughout the world. From being a giant among the Lilliputians to being an insect among the Brobdingnagians, Gulliver experiences life from both ends of the size spectrum. Gulliver’s changes in size do not occur simply to provide a diverting plot exercise for the reader but instead are intended to be part of the metaphorical and satirical ideas presented within it. Swift was using Gulliver and his size to show the realities of life under a much more powerful ruler and how easily those realities can be missed by the powerful party. The first section of Gulliver’s Travels deals with Gulliver’s time among the Lilliputians. Gulliver is much bigger and more powerful than the Lilliputians, nearly completely resilient to their weaponry and their attempts to control him. This is evidenced by his escape attempts during his initial capture and his thought processes during the same time period: I had reason to believe I might be a match for the greatest army they could bring against me if they were all of the same size with him that I saw. Although Gulliver acts politely and civilly toward the people after they provide him with food and wine, he still knows that he could easily pick up several of them at a handful and bash them against the ground. (Swift, 9). Despite this massive difference in size and strength, Gulliver is temporarily held prisoner by the Lilliputians. This is partly out of fear of the pain of their arrows and hypothetical worse weapons they might possess, and partly due to Gulliver’s own sensibilities about how his hosts should be treated (Swift, 9). The Lilliputians do recognize, however, that if Gulliver were to decide to break loose, there would be very little they could do to prevent it or stop him from harming their country. Their fears about Gulliver’s acceptance of his capture being the only reason they can hold him are proven valid by the fact that he allows a search of his belongings, but he is able to hide a whole pocket of goods from them (Swift, 15-19). Without Gulliver’s co-operation, the Lilliputians would not be able to hold him for long. This mutual acceptance of control seems to be a metaphor for the British practice of colonization. In this metaphor, the British are the Lilliputians and the native populace of the colonies are Gulliver. Gulliver is, in actuality, more powerful than the entire Lilliputian army, but they frighten him into submission with an initial show of weaponry. Out of fear, Gulliver allows himself to be taken prisoner and controlled by the Lilliputians, though he could likely easily escape. He is only freed from imprisonment under the control of a very strict peace contract with the Lilliputians, which stipulates that he does not have freedom of movement around the city, that he is not allowed to leave the domain of the Lilliputian ruler, and other rules that mean he really doesn’t have any freedom at all (Swift, 25-26). This is very similar to the rule under which the British historically held their colonies. The natives were made to think that there was no reason to fight back, because fighting back would end in