Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift’s satirical classic, Gulliver’s Travels, was written in between the years of
1714 and 1726. The novel is rife with Swift’s bitterness toward England’s colonial
rulings. Although Gulliver’s Travels is a political satire, it is also an adventure tale full
of twists and turns and fantastical places and beings.
Lemuel Gulliver is a surgeon who aspires to travel the world in order to discover new
places. The book is narrated by Gulliver. He gives a detailed account of four different
voyages from England to undiscovered parts of the earth where he encounters strange
inhabitants and foreign customs. First, he comes upon a land of miniature peoples, who
befriend him despite the large amount of food he consumes in comparison to them. Next,
he visits a land of giants, who are friendly toward him although he is repulsed by their
gigantic imperfections. He journeys to a land of theoreticians and academics whose
minds are completely out of touch with real life problems, and takes a side trip to a land
where historical figures have been re-created in the flesh, although they are much less
impressive than Gulliver imagined they would be. His final journey takes him to a land
of intelligent horse-like creatures, ruled by oppressive human-like creatures. Lemuel
feels the most at home with the horse-like creatures, but they have a difficult time
accepting his resemblance to the human-like creatures who rule over them.
Gulliver’s Travels was initially received as highly controversial; Swift’s bawdy
descriptions of bodily functions shocked pristine readers. Though full of fantastical
creatures, Gulliver’s Travels was not intended to be a children’s book. The novel is
instead a biting criticism of the nature of mankind. It is also a humorous, highly
entertaining book, and it occasionally offers beams of hope amidst Swift’s trenchant
depictions of insufferable beings.