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Books

The Summary Of Gulliver’s Travels

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

Jonathan Swift’s, Gulliver’s Travels, follows its protagonist, Lemuel Gulliver, across a vast array of varied locales as he observes the culture and customs of several outlandish societies. Gulliver’s role as narrator, however, is rather limited due in part to his lack of drive and individuality. The prospect of his many journeys comes not from a desire for fame, discovery, power, fortune, or even knowledge, but from a financial perspective of which little time is actively devoted to. Additionally, he is generally depicted as a passive element throughout the narrative, rather than taking an active role in its events. He is often captured or rendered submissive towards the natives of the many cultures he encounters, and his salvation arrives through circumstance rather than ingenuity or feats of strength. This is perhaps due to his more practical intelligence, and often hampers part of his accounts through dull, superfluous detail, such as his thorough description of naval jargon. This serves as but one example of Gulliver acting as a mouthpiece for Swift, allowing him to observe various aspects of human culture as overtly negative through a satiric depiction of the outlandish, such as the aforementioned oversaturation of technical terms employed by many writers of the time to sound more knowledgeable and sophisticated.

Another example lies in the use of size and physical prowess to determine might, as explored through both of Gulliver’s adventures in Lilliput and Brobdingnag, where Gulliver is decidedly superior in the former and lesser in the latter due primarily to his physical size. These adventures serve to depict power as a subjective concept, as Gulliver’s size both affords him supreme might in one society and a sincere deprivation of it in another. Brobdingnag also allows Swift to deconstruct the prospect of attraction through Gulliver’s observation of the naked, female giants. What would have been quite attractive to him were he of similar stature, he describes as hideous, detailing how their smell and the size of their pores sickens him, stating. In this way, Swift is detailing how what may seem appealing at first can be quite flawed if scrutinized, and imperfections can exist where initially thought flawless.

Additionally, the conflict between and within Lilliput and Blefuscu offers Swift the chance to posit the absurdity over differences in belief and perspective by framing it as fixation over the correct way to crack an egg, something that the novel’s smaller denizens are quick to conflict over. The absurdity of this difference in belief acts a parallel to the many ways in which humans bicker and war over slight variances in opinion, be it political, religious, or otherwise. When framed from a context outside the culture of the issue in question, this becomes as ridiculous as the aforementioned conflict. This is further accentuated in the protagonists trip to the grand academy in Lagado, as there is an over-fixation on scientific discovery seemingly for the sake of them, such as attempting to harness sunbeams off of a cucumber. Not only is the length of time involved in the experiment excessive, even if it proves successful, there is little if any practical application for this knowledge. The people outside the walls are starving, and spending sixteen years to produce higher quality cucumbers with a greater yield appears wasteful when the problem far exceeds the merits of the experiment. In this way, Swift is commenting on the arrogance of many scientists and philosophers as being fixated on discovery rather than practicality. Also, despite some of the people being immortal, the longer each lives, the less joy they seem to experience in spite of any knowledge or wealth accumulated in their long years. Swift is noting how the common aspirations of wisdom and money are ultimately flawed, as they do not bring about happiness despite humanity’s fixation on them.

Furthermore, Gulliver traverses the land of the Houyhnhnms, a race of horse people with beliefs and customs that ultimately twist Gulliver into the misanthropic state he concludes the story in. He sees them as an idyllic people and eventually comes to view his own kind as the Houyhnhnms view the Yahoos: with pitied disdain. This section lies in stark contrast to the earlier parts of Gulliver’s Travels, as the satire here takes on a relatively inverse look towards humanity. The Houyhnhnms are depicted as entirely rational, and live in relative utopia, to which Gulliver dictates. This, however, belies their lack of individuality, and they are depicted to lack intense passion and love as all affairs are essentially delegated to bettering their society rather than the individual. While this allows Swift to explore how humanity might perhaps attain a higher pinnacle of cooperation and prosperity, it provides a rather dull and lifeless depiction of what that would entail. Gulliver leaves the land of the Houyhnhnms unable to cope with his newfound misanthropy and finds himself essentially trapped between their world and his own, unable to reconcile the two. This perhaps reflects Swift’s own perspective of being lost somewhere between what he perceives as the common and idyllic portrayals of humanity.  

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