A Feminist Perspective of Gulliver’s Travels

Cover of "Gulliver's Travels (Unabridged ...

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Jonathan Swift was accused from before he wrote Gulliver’s Travels of being anti-feminist and Gulliver’s Travels has itself been classified as a misogynist work by many feminist. The many references to the female sex and body in his book are negative which tend to degrade and disfigure the vision of womanhood in objectionable ways to female readers. The view he gives of the Yahoo women and of other female characters in his book seems to portray them as indiscriminately and blatantly sexual in nature along with his view of nursing mothers as being animal-like in their behavior. The separation of motherhood and the sexuality of womanhood in the mind of man during Swift’s time was beginning to blur somewhat and seemed to repulse Swift, much like it is beginning to blur in this time and in our culture.

Swift’s own autobiography, “The Family of Swift” tells of the early loss of his mother and the indulgent care of his nurse, which could be the original source of his misogynistic tendencies. First Swift’s anger at the loss of his mother and then the control of the overly doting nurse, followed by his disappointment in not receiving a position in the Church by Queen Anne probably all contributed to his feelings of betrayal by and malice toward women. The denial of his calling toward occupation in the church was probably the catapult that pushed the plagued heads over the wall. His repulsive attitude toward women became an obsession in his writings, overtly so in Gulliver’s Travels.

Swift’s own victimization of his person in the character of Gulliver in his novel ultimately identifies him with the female gender that repulses him, but not so much to womanhood, as to his own vulnerability of his sexuality and humanity. He seems to be as much repulsed by the idea of being identified with the Yahoos, whether male or female, as being subjected to any kind of female authority. He saw himself as untouchable by the failures of mankind in his ascension to church occupation, only to be brought down to his own humanity in the end. When confronted by his own sexuality and humanity, he could not seem to rationalize his inclusion in the human race. He somehow felt outside and beyond it.

Swift’s denial of the Yahoo in himself was confronted by the powerful sexual advances made by the Yahoo female in the course of Gulliver’s Travels. This confrontation of the reality of his own Yahooness, rather than making him accept it, made him flee from the very repulsiveness of the idea, in that Swift never married and his character Gulliver was repulsed by the seeing and smelling of his own wife in the end of the novel.

This detached individualism is how he chose to live out his life, though he did share some intimacies with female friends. And though his satirical sarcasm against those in high power who had victimized and prostituted their own wives and daughtersaffords him some vindication from womankind, his disgust against the licentiousness of all humankind and the propagation of the Yahoo species condemns him to his utter aloneness. Gulliver’s revulsion of his wife and children in the final chapters serves to mortify his humanness once and for all. In short, it was not so much his anti-feminism but his anti-humanism that condemns him. Rather than simply avoiding those behaviors and persons that he abhorred, he seemed to abhor all of mankind, effectively writing himself out of its existence in Gulliver’s Travels.

About mamaheartfilled

I am a mother of eight wonderfully challenging children and fourteen grandkids, of whom I am very proud. I am also a bi-vocational ordained evangelical minister, and a Christian Counselor. I received my B.S. degree in 2004, studying primarily in the areas of Psychology, with minors in Religion and English. I received my Masters Degree in 2009 in Psychological Counseling with an emphasis in Christian Counseling. I have endeavored to paraphrase the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. It is my hope that it will be of some use in the great commission of Christ. My ministry is primarily geared toward victims of sexual and domestic violence, including victims of childhood sexual abuse, whether currently or in the past. Since I have personally experienced the healing hand of God in overcoming many of the life issues that Christians may face, I feel qualified and compelled to discuss them in a truthful and open manner, as God’s word tells us that “We shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free.” God has brought me through such diverse tribulations as sexual, physical, and mental abuse, being a victim of a drunk driving accident, spousal pornography addiction, adultery, divorce, remarriage, a very brief, though unjust, incarceration, and having experienced multiple miscarriages and various other trials. I have been asked to leave two Southern Baptist Churches, due to my being a female, ordained as a minister, and fired from a SBC sponsored Christian School (mostly white) for speaking out against racial prejudice in the Family of God. Through God’s merciful forgiveness of my own sins and inadequacies and God’s grace given to me to forgive those who have been a stumbling block to me, I have overcome many of these adversities. God’s word tells us that “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to the purposes of God." Since I have this hope, I believe that God has blessed me with the ability to confront and relate these issues to the Christian community around the world. I hope to be able to use my personal experiences as a ministry of God’s grace and in the comforting of the people of God with the truth of God's mercy. I claim II Corinthians 1: 3 & 4 as my calling, which states: “Blessed be God, the Origin of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Origin of mercies, and the God of comfort; who comforts us in all our troubles, that we may be able to comfort those who are in trouble, by the comfort we ourselves have been given by God.” As I have received the gift of God’s healing, I hope to be able to bring the peace beyond understanding to others with the message of God’s mercy and grace. My love for the Sovereign Lord of my life, Jesus Christ, along with my passion for writing has drawn me to explore these commonly experienced crisis issues from the perspective of my own experience in the hope that I may bring an empathetic and compassionate insight to God’s people. I am now a published author and have several books in publication, including my autobiography, "A Little Redneck Theology." The views expressed in my writings are strictly my own insights, acquired from personal experience and diligent study of the related topics and God’s word concerning them. Though I am an ordained minister, my views should not be considered authoritative. I believe that the Christian community’s ultimate authority is the guidance of the human heart by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
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