Satire on Science in Gulliver’s Travels

Question: Discuss the satire of science in “Gulliver’s Travels”. Or, what does Swift satirize in the third part of “Gulliver’s Travels”? Illustrate. Satire on Science in Gulliver’s Travels.


Political, Physical, intellectual, and moral aspects of man have been taunted or gibed in “Gulliver’s Travels” which is the most successful prose fiction by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745). In Book 3, Swift castigates the intellectual part of man and for this, he has chiefly targeted science.

Preoccupation with mathematics

Mathematics is the soul of science but the preoccupation of the Laputans with mathematics is neatly irrelevant that has been shown from a satirical point of view by Swift. The royal court of Laputa shows an intense fascination for mathematics. All the Laputans who are mainly interested in mathematics and music represent useless knowledge. The knowledge which is gained by them has no use. They are clumsy, awkward, and unhandy people. They are so engrossed in mathematics and music that their clothes are decorated with figures of musical instruments and geometrical drawings. Such absorption is a craziness, not practicality.

Satirical aspect of astronomy

The Laputans are not only absorbed in mathematics and music but also in astronomy. Their astronomical activities have detached them from the sense which is why they have forgotten the ordinary concerns of human nature. In Swift’s consideration, they are so engrossed with their activities that they have no time even for their wives. Therefore, Swift has attempted to show his concern about what actually the Laputans want to create or discover or invent through their chaotic scientific activities. So, it is asserted allegorically that only Stringent mentality comes from this.

Scientific principles of Lord Munodi

Laputa has been a world of death because of the scientific principles of the old-fashioned Lord Munodi. The results of the scientific efforts of the Laputians are purely destructive because their aims are impossibly high and unrelated to real conditions. Their situation has reached such a level that someday they will say that a palace may be built in a week and the materials will be so durable that the palace will be lasting forever without repairing. Or all the fruits of the earth come to maturity whatever the season is. Because of their such mentality, the houses are ruined. The lands are uncultivated, and People are starving. Thus, Lord Munodi’s abominable problem-solving scientific principles are only lucrative for him and the rest of the people of his kingdom are helpless and suffering from aliveness like death. Here Swift satirically focuses on the fact that science means genius and creativity, not madness.

Useless experiments in the Academy

Jonathan Swift earnestly observes the experiments of the Grand Academy of Lagado which is the capital city of Balnibari. When Gulliver visits Balnibari, he is heavily disgusted with the inhabitants of Lagado. He discovers that people are entirely absorbed in scientific experiments that are absolutely useless. For example, the scientists are deeply busy with absurd projects to extract sunbeams from cucumber, turn human excrement into its original food, make silk from cobwebs or write poetry and philosophy by a mechanical contrivance without any need of genius and study. Thus, the Academy is nothing more than a distraction from real life. By the reference of the Grand Academy, Swift has mocked the Royal Society of England.


By the closure of the discussion, it is transparently understood that Swift has used science as a metaphor for man’s unnecessary knowledge and tendency to overlook the limitation of his intellect. The master satirist also shows what happens when people give too much emphasis on reason. So, the critics of Swift are not accurate if they gibe Swift though there is somewhat ambiguity in Swift’s evaluation of science.

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Ruhul Huda
Ruhul Huda

You can call me Mr. Huda. I am a researcher and doing this work for years. I like to learn everywhere. So, feel free to share your experience with me.

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