Swift’s father wasan English lawyer died while his wife was pregnant to Jonathan. Right after hewas born, his mother left him to be raised by his brother. He graduated fromTrinity College and started a master’s degree, but left to join the GloriousRevolution. The object of this revolution was to convince James II (King ofEngland) to abdicate the throne. Swift’s last years were a torment. Hesuffered awful bouts of dizziness, nausea, deafness and mental incapacity.
Infact, Swift’s harshest critics tried to discredit this book on the groundsthat he was mad when he wrote it. But he wasn’t. The Travels were published in1726 and Part IV, which raised the most controversy, was written before Part IIIand Swift did not enter a mental institution until 1745. Swift was dean of St.
Patrick’s’ Cathedral in Dublin when his novel came out. Since in this bookhe wrote about political figures, he published the book anonymously. It didn’ttake long for people to discover that the author was Jonathan Swift. Not onlyhad he been involved in some important and heated political events of the time,but he was also a well-known political journalist and satirist whose style wasquite distinctive. Gulliver’s Travels is the tale of Lemuel Gulliver as hevoyages to the strange lands of Lilliput, Brobdingnag, the kingdom of Laputa,and the land of the Houhnnms. (WHIN-NIMMS) Gulliver is the most importantcharacter in this novel.
He’s the “author” of the Travels. He’sfrustrating to deal with for a number of reasons. 1. He’s not steady; hechanges in relation to the places he visits and the events that befall him as hevoyages. 2. He’s often a victim of swift’s satire.
This means you have to beon your guard against what he says, even though he’s the guide, you cannotfollow him everywhere. 3. It’s impossible to feel relaxed with Gulliver. Swiftwon’t let us trust him enough for that. 4.
Because Gulliver directs a lot of hishostility toward us- readers beyond reform- we in turn feel hostile toward him. 5. Looking at Gulliver is a lot like looking in a mirror. We are by turnsfascinated, attracted, disgusted, and ashamed. You first meet Gulliver at the”end” of his story, in a letter he’s written to his publisher.
By nowGulliver is out of his mind: he’s raving, he’s nasty, he lies, he’s proud beyondthe limits of pride. But he wasn’t always. He grew up in Nottinghamshire, thethird of five sons in a respectable, middle-class family. While in school heheld jobs: as an apprentice, he proved his competence; as a physician, he wasable to get work on ships, which had been his lifelong dream.
The first place hetravels to is called Lilliput. People here are six inches high and Gulliver, incomparison is a giant, or a “man mountain” as they call him. This section ofPart I is essentially an allegory of English politics in the early 18th centurywhen the Whigs and the Tories were fighting over control of the country. Hismission here is to aid the Lilliputians in their war against blefuscu (Lilliputrepresents England, Blefuscu, France) Gulliver literally seizes the enemy fleetand strides across the harbor with it back to Lilliput.
For a short time he’sa hero. But he urinates in a fire that saves the royal chambers, but he isimpeached for disobeying an ordinance prohibiting public urination. He escapesand then goes home to England. Part II begins in Brobdingnag. Gulliver here isseen cruel and vindictive just like the Lilliputians. One day he’s at anouting with the King and Queen and his house “a box” is kidnapped by a birdand dropped in the sea.
It’s recovered by an English ship and he moves back toEngland. Part III, Gulliver goes to the flying island of Laputa and some of itsnearby colonies. Gulliver recedes in Part III. Not much happens to himpersonally, for the most part he recounts what he observes in the way ofscientific experiments.
Swift uses Gulliver to relate deadpan what he himselfconsiders to be foolish attitudes and activities. Gulliver goes mad in Part IV. Presented with the Houyhnhnms and the Yahoos, Gulliver tries desperately tobecome a Houyhnhnm, an animal governed entirely by reason. He cannot, of course.
Gulliver isn’t able to see the Yahoos as Swift intends them to be seen- asrepresenting the worst traits in human nature, and the lowest level to which hemight sink. Gulliver sees the Yahoos as mankind, period. Gulliver alsomisapprehends the Houyhnhnms. It is only to Gulliver- not to Swift- that thesecreatures represent a human ideal. Gulliver, neither Yahoo nor Houyhnhnm, canfind no species to which he belongs, and so goes mad. The overarching theme ofthe novel can be said to be the question, “What is it to be human?” In thisbook you are exposed to a host of creatures and situations and systems that alsohelp you wonder such themes like Human nature is petty What is good government?What are the values of reason? What are the limits of reason? And The sin ofpride is the most dangerous sin of all The style of this novel is composedchiefly of satire, allegory and irony.
The book is very entertaining and it ?swritten to vex you, to startle you into deep reflection and to invite debate.