Gulliver’s Travels, although known as a classic children’s adventure book
by SALVATORE INCARDONA
27 SEP 2011
Anglo-Irish author Jonathan Swift created this story about a sea-loving physician who travels to imaginary foreign lands; his vessel is shipwrecked and taken over by pirates but behind these events there is Swift’s satire to the political events in England and Ireland. He makes fun of academics, scientists, and politicians who value rationalism. At its first publication, the novel did not show Swift’s name because the author feared government persecution.
The book is still considered one of the best examples of satire ever written. The author’s acute observations about the corruption of people can still conform to today’s reality, almost three centuries later.
Part I: A Voyage to Lilliput and Blefuscu
The book starts with a short introduction in which Lemuel Gulliver, gives a brief summary of his life before his voyages. In the course of his first voyage, Gulliver is washed ashore after a shipwreck and finds himself prisoner of people less than 6 inches high, who live in the rival country of Lilliput. After giving assurances of his good intentions, the Lilliputians give him a place to stay and he becomes a favorite of the court. From there, the book follows Gulliver's observations about the Court of Lilliput. He is given the permission to wander around the city with the agreement he would not harm the Lilliputians. Gulliver helps the Lilliputians to suppress their neighbors, the Blefuscudians, by stealing their fleet; however, he disagrees on downgrading the country to a province of Lilliput, displeasing the King and the court. Gulliver is then charged with betrayal and sentenced to be blinded. But with the help of a kind friend, Gulliver is able to escape to Blefuscu, where he finds an abandoned boat and sails out; he is later saved by a passing ship which takes him home.
Part II: A Voyage to Brobdingnag
When the sailing ship Adventure is forced to change its course because of a storm and crashes into land, Gulliver is abandoned by his companions and later found by a farmer who is 72 feet tall; the farmer brings Gulliver home and his daughter takes cares of him. The farmer treats him as a curiosity and exhibits him for money. The Queen of Brobdingnag hears the news and wants to see the show; she likes Gulliver and she buys him to keep him as a favorite at court.
As Gulliver is too small to use their gigantic chairs, beds, knives, and forks, the queen buys a small house just for Gulliver so that he can be carried around in it. In the book, this is referred to as his "travelling box." Gulliver discusses the state of Europe with the King; however, the King is not impressed with Gulliver's opinion. Thus, on a trip to the coast, his travelling box is snatched by a giant eagle which drops Gulliver and his box right into the sea where he is picked up by some sailors, who takes him back to England.
This book compares the moral to the representative man, the latter of whom is clearly shown to be the lesser of the two.
Part III: A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib, and Japan
After Gulliver's ship is attacked by pirates, he is stranded next to a desolate rocky island, close to India. He is rescued by the flying island of Laputa, a kingdom devoted to music and mathematics, however, unable to use them for practical ends.
While there, Gulliver tours the country as the guest of a low-ranking aristocrat; he sees the ruin brought by blind pursuit of science without practical results, in a satire on bureaucracy and the Royal Society. At The Grand Academy of Lagado great resources are employed on researching completely ridiculous and unnecessary schemes like extracting sunbeams from cucumbers, learning how to mix paint by smell, and uncovering political conspiracies by examining the excrement of suspicious persons.
Gulliver is then taken to Balnibarbi to wait for a trader that can take him to Japan. However, while waiting, he takes a short side-trip to the island of Glubbdubdrib, where he visits a magician and discusses history with the ghosts of historical figures; in Luggnagg he encounters the struldbrugs, poor people who are immortal, forever old, complete with the infirmities of old age, and considered legally dead at the age of eighty. After arriving to Japan, Gulliver tells the Emperor "to excuse my performing the ceremony imposed upon my countrymen of trampling upon the crucifix", which the Emperor concedes. Gulliver returns home, where he decides he wants to stay until the end of his life.
Part IV: A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms
Regardless of his decision to remain at home, Gulliver returns to the sea as the captain of a merchantman as he is bored with his employment as a surgeon. On this voyage he is compelled to find new members for his crew, because he believes the old crew has turned the rest of the crew against him. His crew revolts against him and decides to leave him as soon as they touch land and to continue as pirates. He is abandoned in a landing boat and comes across a race of repulsive and deformed humans for which he develops an immediate and vicious antipathy. Shortly after he meets a horse and comes to understand that they call themselves Houyhnhms, which in their language means "the perfection of nature", and that they are in charge; whereas the deformed creatures called Yahoos are human beings in their base form.
Gulliver becomes a member of the horse's household, and begins to admire and imitate the Houyhnhnms and their lifestyle, while rejecting the Yahoos. However, a gathering of the Houyhnhnms determines that Gulliver is a danger to their civilization, and banishes him.
He is then rescued, against his will, by a Portuguese ship, and is shocked to learn that Captain Pedro de Mendez, a Yahoo himself, is a wise, polite, and generous person. He returns to his home in England, but he is not able to accept living among Yahoos and becomes a recluse, remaining in his house, avoiding his family and his wife, and spending time in the stables speaking to the horses.
This book uses crude metaphors to describe human immorality; the Houyhnhms are symbolized as not only perfected nature but also the emotional emptiness which Swift maintained that devotion to reason brought.
Jonathan Swift (1667 - 1745) was an Anglo-Irish writer; born in Dublin, Ireland, as the only son of Jonathan Swift and Abigaile Erick Swift. He studied at Kilkenny Grammar School between 1674 and 1682 and at Trinity College between 1682 and 1689. He received his M.A. in 1692. He took numerous trips to London and became famous for his satiric essays. Between 1702 and 1714, Swift was one of the most important figures in the political and the literary life of London.