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Gulliver’s Travels

Jonathan Swift

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 3

My little Friend Grildrig. . . . I cannot but conclude the Bulk of your Natives, to be the most pernicious Race of little odious Vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the Surface of the Earth.

This famous judgment by the king of Brobdingnag on the people of England, given in Part II, Chapter VI, after Gulliver (or “Grildrig”) has summarized the institutions of his native land, is a harsh denunciation of mankind in its current state, and it stokes the misanthropy that dominates Gulliver’s mind by the end of Gulliver’s Travels. The judgment is particularly ironic because Gulliver’s own purpose in telling the king about England is to convince him of England’s significance. The king acts as though Gulliver has intended to “clearly prove” the faults of his land, though of course Gulliver does not mean to make such an attack at all. Gulliver’s speech on his country is not meant to be in the least critical, but it is received by the king as a forceful damnation, so what is mocked here is not just England but also Gulliver’s naïve and unthinking acceptance of his own society. Swift subtly raises the issue of ideology, which refers to a person’s brainwashed way of taking for granted a social arrangement that could or should be criticized and improved.