Gulliver's Travels  

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Gulliver's Travels (1726, amended 1735), officially Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, is a novel by Jonathan Swift that is both a satire on human nature and a parody of the "travellers' tales" literary sub-genre. It is Swift's best known and most esteemed work, and a classic of English literature.

The book became tremendously popular as soon as it was published (Alexander Pope stated that "it is universally read, from the cabinet council to the nursery"), and it is likely that it has never been out of print since then. It is claimed the inspiration for Gulliver came from the sleeping giant profile of the Cavehill in Belfast.

Contents

Plot summary

The book presents itself as a simple traveller's narrative with the disingenuous title Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, its authorship assigned only to "Lemuel Gulliver, first a surgeon, then a captain of several ships". Different editions contain different versions of the prefatory material which are basically the same as forewords in modern books.

The book proper then is divided into four parts, which are as follows.

Part I: A Voyage To Lilliput

May 4, 1699April 13, 1702


The book begins with a short preamble in which Gulliver, in the style of books of the time, gives a brief outline of his life and history prior to his voyages. He enjoys travelling. This turns out to be fortunate.

On his first voyage, Gulliver is washed ashore after a shipwreck and awakes to find himself a prisoner of a race of people one-twelfth the size of normal human beings (6 inches/15cm tall), who are inhabitants of the neighbouring and rival countries of Lilliput and Blefuscu. After giving assurances of his good behaviour he is given a residence in Lilliput and becomes a favourite of the court. There follow Gulliver's observations on the Court of Lilliput, which is intended to satirize the court of George I (King of Great Britain at the time of the writing of the Travels). Gulliver assists the Lilliputians to subdue their neighbours the Blefuscudans (by stealing their fleet). However, he refuses to reduce the country to a province of Lilliput, displeasing the King and the court. Gulliver is charged with treason and sentenced to be blinded. With the assistance of a kind friend, Gulliver fortunately escapes to Blefuscu, where he spots and retrieves an abandoned boat and sails out to be rescued by a passing ship which takes him back home. The feuding between the Lilliputians and the Blefuscudians is meant to represent the feuding countries of England and France, but the reason for the war is meant to satirize the feud between Catholics and Protestants, over issues that Swift may have found trivial.

Part II: A Voyage to Brobdingnag

June 20, 1702June 3, 1706

When the sea vessel 'Adventure' is steered off course by storms and forced to go in to land for want of freshwater, Gulliver is abandoned by his companions and found by a farmer who is 80 feet (24 meters) tall (the scale of Lilliput is approximately 1:12; of Brobdingnag 12:1)he brings gulliver home and his daughter cares for gulliver the farmer who treats him as a curiosity and exhibits him for money. He is then bought by the Queen of Brobdingnag and kept as a favourite at court. In between small adventures such as fighting giant wasps and being carried to the roof by a monkey, he discusses the state of Europe with the King, who is not impressed. On a trip to the seaside, his "travelling box" is seized by a giant eagle and dropped into the sea where he is picked up by sailors, who return him to Africa.

Part III: A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Glubbdubdrib, Luggnagg and Japan

August 5, 1706April 16, 1710

Gulliver's ship is attacked by pirates and he is marooned on a desolate rocky island. Fortunately he is rescued by the flying island of Laputa, a kingdom devoted to the arts of music and mathematics but utterly unable to use these for practical ends. The device described simply as The Engine is possibly the first literary description in history of something resembling a computer. Laputa's method of throwing rocks at rebellious surface cities also seems the first time that aerial bombardment was conceived as a method of warfare. Gulliver is then taken to Balnibarbi to await a Dutch trader who can take him on to Japan and thence to England. While there, he tours the country as the guest of a low-ranking courtier and sees the ruin brought about by blind pursuit of science without practical results in a satire on the Royal Society and its experiments. He also encounters the struldbrugs, unfortunates who are immortal and very, very old. He travels to a magician's dwelling and discusses history with the ghosts of historical figures, the most obvious restatement of the "ancients versus moderns" theme in the book. The trip is otherwise reasonably free of incident and Gulliver returns home, determined to stay there for the rest of his days.

Part IV: A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms

September 7, 1710December 5, 1715

Despite his earlier intention of remaining at home, Gulliver returns to sea where his crew was captured by Dutch and Japanese pirates in order to force them to become pirates also. He is abandoned in a landing boat and comes first upon a race of (apparently) hideous deformed creatures to which he conceives a violent antipathy. Shortly thereafter he meets a horse and comes to understand that the horses (in their language Houyhnhnm or "the perfection of nature") are the rulers and the deformed creatures ("Yahoos") are human beings in their basest form. Gulliver becomes a member of the horse's household, and comes to both admire and emulate the Houyhnhnms and their lifestyle, rejecting human beings as merely Yahoos endowed with some semblance of reason which they only use to exacerbate and add to the vices Nature gave them. However, an Assembly of the Houyhnhnms rules that Gulliver, a Yahoo with some semblance of reason, is a danger to their civilization and he is expelled. He is then rescued, against his will, by a Portuguese ship that returns him to his home in England. However, he is unable to reconcile himself to living among Yahoos; he becomes a recluse, remaining in his house, largely avoiding his family, and spending several hours a day speaking with the horses in his stables.

See also




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