Individualism In Gulliver's Travels By Jonathan Swift

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Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels, is fundamentally skeptical of philosopher John Locke’s views as expressed in his writing, The Second Treatise of Government. Locke holds the belief that when individuals are pursing self-interest within the realm of economics and politics that they are serving the common good regardless of intent. However, Swift disagrees and uses satire to express his hesitancy. The reason for Swift’s skepticism is that his purpose differs from Locke’s. Locke uses individualism to justify private property as a common good so that men may profit, whereas Swift depicts individualism as corrupting to human morality in order to further discredit modernity.
To begin with, one of the main points made by John Locke in
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Gulliver’s Travels is a satirical work but intended to be read as an actual voyage account at the time. Swift, an Irishman, used it as a way to comment on the flaws of a modern, science-based way of life, amongst satirizing the political and social world of the English as well. For example, the main character, Lemuel Gulliver in some ways could be considered an individualist. He never truly fits in with any of the societies he visits. He does often share similarities with the inhabitants of some of his destinations, such as the fact that he is a modern man who quantifies a lot of information (Gulliver’s Travels, 15) much like the Lilliputians he encounters in his first voyage; however, the difference in their sizes keeps Gulliver from truly blending in, and such is the case with the Brobdingnagians as well, since they are much taller than him (Gulliver’s Travels, 79). Gulliver’s plight of never truly being at home with any people continues into his returns home, since traveling has changed his perspective so much, he details, “My Daughter kneeled to ask my Blessing, but I could not see her till she arose, having been so long used to stand with my Head and Eyes erect to above Sixty Foot; and then I went to take her up with one Hand, by the Waist.” (Gulliver’s Travels, 137). Swift makes it even more blatant that being separate from others and…show more content…
Both authors use it as a means to justify their respective ends: for Locke, to justify a type of proto-capitalism and the need for government and for Swift, to critique modernity and its turn away from morals in the direction of focusing more on quantifiable science. Swift was skeptical of Locke’s views because he felt that if humans were to act out of self-interest, it would not serve the common good, but only themselves as evidenced through the character of Lemuel Gulliver. Ultimately, it neither Swift’s nor Locke’s main focus, and as such the concept was not of the utmost importance to either of
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