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Gulliver’s Travels

literature

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Gulliver’s Travels

“ Want to know the world? Look it up close. Want to like it? Look it up from the distance. “

( Ion Luca Caragiale )




In Gulliver’s Travels , Swift and his character , Gulliver , have separate personalities . Swift does not express his views through Gulliver , but through the foreign societies and cultures that Gulliver sees ( though is unable to put into critical perspective ) .

As a seemingly wise and educated man , throughout the novel Gulliver’s Travels, the narrator cleverly gains the reader’s respect as a thinking and observant individual . With this position in mind , the comments and ideas that Gulliver inflicts upon those reading about his journeys certainly have their own identity as they coincide with his beliefs and statements on the state of humanity and civilization in particular . Everywhere Gulliver goes , he seems to comment on the good and bad points of the people he encounters . Sometimes , he finds a civilization that he can find virtues within , but he also encounters peoples and places which truly disgust him in their manner of operation and civility . Overall , Swift gives Gulliver a generally negative and cynical attitude towards the manner in which his current day English counterparts behaved cleverly disguised in the subtext of his encounters with other nations that either contrasted the way they lived , or mirrored unflatteringly his contemporaries lifestyles.

Gulliver remarks about the Lilliputians , Brobdingnagians,Laputans,Houyhnhnms and Yahoos in a straightforward way , reporting on the cultures , rather than analyzing them . Swift thus disguises his allusions to the political and philosophical thought of his time , allowing the reader , not Gulliver , to discover them . The book can be read as a simple adventure story and travelogue ( as Gulliver intends ) , or as a complex satire on 18th century morals and thought ( as Swift intends ) .

In each land that Gulliver visits , there is a different ironic comparison to English/European politics and philosophy . Book ILilliput is a rich satire of the English politics of Swift’s time . The small , but extremely immoral Lilliputians represent the Whig party of England , whose vicious foreign policy and accusations of treason against members of the Tory party Swift despised . The small size of the Lilliputians is in inverse proportion to the amount of their corruption .

Similarly , the Brobdingnagians find Gulliver’s culture to bee to violent for the size of its people , and Gulliver’s pride in describing the English is offset by his puniness . Swift characterizes the giants of Book II-Brobdingnag to be imperfect but extremely moral , possibly the ideal for how a society could be in Swift’s , or our , time .

In Book III - Laputa , Swift satirizes the philosophical movements of rational thought that were popular in the 17th and 18th centuries . The overkill of geometry and other systems being used by the Laputans , to everyone’s disadvantage , ridicules the idea of over thinking something . The Laputans deal in the conceptual rather than in the sensible , resulting in ludicrous theories and ideas .

The Houyhnhnms of Book IV – Houyhnhnms   likewise prize the rational , but instead of satirizing them as idiots , Swift shows them to be simply cold . The horses single-minded rationality deprives them of access to love , art , and other impracticalities that help to offset the heatless aspects of Swift’s , and our , culture .



Gulliver’s Travels   was a topical social satire , a work of propaganda , in which Swift wanted to show the consequences of humanity’s refusal to be reasonable . It is still widely read all over the world – especially the two first books are children’s favorites – and open to many interpretations .

What Swift offers us in Gulliver’s Travels is a series of cautions and warnings about modern times . The human project is off and running – Swift knows that – as much as a parent knows that the child who finally leaves the nest is not going to return . But like the young adult incautious and fearless about taking on the world , Swift is shaking a finger at his age – be prudent , keep your head out of the clouds , look both ways before crossing the street , and above all , remember your parents and those virtues that they taught you !






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