‘Gulliver’s travels’ is an adventurous novel written by Jonathan Swift in 1726. Preceded by short summaries at the beginning of each of the chapters, the main character of the book, a young sailor called Gulliver, is in charge of telling us the story of his unbelievable experiences during his trips.
During his first voyage, Gulliver is shipwrecked and when he wakes up he realizes that his arms, legs and long hair have been tied to the ground, by tiny people, less than six inches tall who are the inhabitants of Lilliput. When they become aware of his good behaviour, he is given a residence in Lilliput. He refuses to reduce the empire of Blefuscu, which is an island situated in the north-east side of Lilliput, so Gulliver is charged with treason and sentenced to be blind. Gulliver is helped by a good friend and escapes to Blefuscu, where he finds a boat and sails out. After some difficulties he returns safe to his native country.
Two months later he starts a second voyage. He sets sail in a ship called the Adventurous, but a storm surprises them and the ship eventually arrives at an unknown island called Brobdingnang. While he is exploring the new country, he is left in the shore where he is found by a giant, about seventy two feet. The giant, who is a farmer, carries Gulliver to his house. The farmer, under the influence of some friends, decides to exhibit Gulliver for money. They travel around different places, meanwhile an order comes from the court, they want to see him. The Queen, who is delighted with Gulliver’s behaviour, decides to buy him and keeps him as her favourite in the court, but on a trip to the seaside his travelling box is seized by a giant eagle, which throws it to the sea, where he is picked up by some sailors who return him to England.
In his third voyage, his ship is attacked by pirates and he is abandoned at the flying island of Laputa, a kingdom where people are interested in music and mathematics but unable to use their abilities in a practical way. After some days Gulliver starts to feel neglected on Laputa because its inhabitants are far superior to him in their knowledge and their conversations are only about their interests. Then he visits Balnibarbi, Lagado academy, and he goes to Glubbdubdirb, the island of magicians where he has the opportunity to speak with the most venerated people in history that are called up by the governor. Then he travels to Luggnagg where he knows immortal people that are called Struldbrugs, but after refusing employment there, he arrives safely in Japan; from there he gains a passage on a Ducth ship and finally he arrives in England.
In the fourth chapter he describes his last travel. He sets sail again, this time as the captain of Adventurous ship, but his crew become pirates who leave him on an unknown shore. There he meets two horses that can speak but in another language, at first Gulliver can only understand that they are called Houyhnmhnms, and the animals that look like humans are called Yahoos. Gulliver is conducted by the horse to his house where he can eat and rest. After studying their language, he likes talking to them about English revolution and Europe. The Houyhnmhnms think that Gulliver is some kind of Yahoo, though superior to the rest of his species. Gulliver develops such a love for the Houyhnmhnms that he no longer desires to return to humankind, but in the end Gulliver is forced to travel back to England.
Jonathan Swift’s book is a satirical view of the state of the European government, he uses a lot of metaphors to describe human depravity in his decade, while the Houyhnmhnms symbolize the perfection. Each part of the book is the reverse of the preceding part, Gulliver is big, small, wise and at the end, ignorant. He thinks that no form of government is ideal, Lilliput is complex, Brobdingnang is simple, Laputa is scientific, and neither the last one whose government is based on nature is ideal, the honest and upright Houyhnmhnms are happy to suppress the true nature of Gulliver as a Yahoo.
Despite the complex, depth and subtlety of the book, ‘Gulliver’s travels’ is often classified as a children’s story because of the popularity of his first voyage to Lilliput, which is often bowdlerised.
From my point of view ‘Gulliver’s travels’ is tedious and slow because the author describes almost everything with all kind of details. It was quite difficult to follow because he uses metaphors to compare the society of his decade with the different countries that Gulliver discovered. On balance I would not recommend this book; although the language was not difficult and he described different travels and adventuress, it is quite boring.
Mónica. Advanced level, 2nd year