Comparing Lilliput’s Customs to Society

Despite the fact that a lot of Gulliver’s Travels is abstract and bizarre, beneath those layers is a satire that contains many comparisons to today’s society. One instance in which this is clear is the description of the Lilliput society, which is a legion of miniature humans, measuring six inches tall. There are many oddities within the Lilliputian government, one example being their selection of officials according to their skills at rope-dancing. This is bizarre to Gulliver, but perfectly logical to the Lilliputians, which could be a commentary on society’s tendency to value meaningless things, such as skin color or material possessions. Smith continues his commentary on materialism through the Lilliputians’ inventory of Gulliver’s possessions, which they take very seriously despite the fact that he does not have many significant possessions. Regardless of the aspects of Lilliput that may seem arbitrary or ridiculous, there are aspects worth admiring, many of which are lacking in today’s society. 

In his description of the Lilliputian crime and punishment system, Gulliver explains the logic behind their assignment of value to crimes, all of which have moral explanations. The Lilliputians view fraud as a more serious crime than theft and frequently punish it with death because “care and vigilance, with a very common understanding, may preserve a man’s goods from thieves, but honesty has no defense against superior cunning,” and “the honest dealer is always undone, and the knave gets the advantage” (Smith 44). It is possible that this is Smith expressing admiration for societies that greatly value honesty and trust, and that he notices a lack of those qualities in real life. Smith also seems to admire societies that value community over the individual, which is seen in the way children are raised. By raising children in public nurseries, they are shielded from the selfish tendencies of their parents, which could possibly help them better serve society.