Human Capacity For Aggression And Cruelty

Submitted By karagold
Words: 514
Pages: 3

The above passage satirically attacks the human capacity for aggression and cruelty. Swift uses Gulliver’s unusual perspective – a small man among very large people – to suggest that close observation of humanity exposes extremely unpleasant realities. Blemished human bodies, Swift implies, are revealing of blemished human qualities more generally. The human capacity for aggression and cruelty is strikingly represented in Gulliver’s account of his being offered as a toy to a giant, menacing child. Though the description has a distinctly comic aspect – the idea of a giant child eating a full-grown man is bizarre, and we know that the outcome was not fatal, since Gulliver survived to tell the tale – it also has a tragic aspect. Gulliver may have escaped, but the willingness of the mother to sacrifice his safety “out of pure indulgence” of her child implies a darker truth: humans are quite willing to overlook the distress of those who are not considered equals. Swift develops the idea of humanity’s hidden dangerousness and corruption by reversing the conventional associations of supposedly harmless things. Gulliver’s description transforms a baby’s rattle – an object one would typically consider trivial – into a “hollow vessel filled with great stones, and fastened by a cable.” The object comes to seem unfamiliar: no longer a mere toy, it now resembles an industrial-strength wrecking ball. Though the mother and child pay little attention to the threat, Gulliver is in danger here of being crushed. Similarly, Gulliver’s description of the mother’s breast inverts conventional associations. We typically consider the breast (especially in the context of mother-child relations) as a wholesome symbol of nurturance (or, in an erotic context, as the source of desire and pleasure). Here, however, the breast becomes a horrifying image of corrupted flesh, a “dug so verified with spots, pimples and freckles, that nothing could appear more nauseous.” As the mother prepares “to give suck,” an action conventionally thought of in terms that are