Gulliver’s Travels is a prose satire dating from 1726 by Irish writer and cleric Jonathan Swift, satirizing both human nature and the literary subgenre of “Traveler’s Tales”.
It is Swift’s best-known complete work, and a classic of English literature. Swift claimed that he wrote Gulliver’s Travels “to irritate the world rather than amuse it.”
Summary and synapse
Gulliver’s Travels is a story of misadventures that tells of Lemuel Gulliver, a ship surgeon who, due to a series of mishaps on the way to recognized ports, instead ends up on several unknown islands that have people and animals from unusual sizes, behaviors and philosophies, but after each adventure, they can somehow return to their home in England, where they recover from these unusual experiences and then set off on a new journey.
When the ship Gulliver travels on is destroyed in a storm, he ends up on the island of Liliput, where he wakes up and discovers that he has been captured by Liliputians, very small people, about six inches tall. Gulliver is treated with compassion and concern.
In turn, it helps them solve some of their problems, especially their conflict with their enemy, Blefuscu, an island across the bay. However, Gulliver falls out of favor because he refuses to support the Emperor’s desire to enslave the Blefuscudians and because he “makes water” to put out a palace fire. Gulliver flees, takes a large warship for his own use, and sets sail from Blefuscu to be rescued at sea by an English merchant ship and return to his home in England.
Gulliver and a small crew are sent to fetch water on an island. Instead, they encounter a land of giants. While the crew flees, Gulliver remains behind and is captured.
Gulliver’s captor, a farmer, takes him to his home where he is treated kindly. The farmer assigns his daughter, Glumdalclitch, to be Gulliver’s guardian, and she cares for him with great compassion. The farmer takes Gulliver on a tour of the field, showing him to viewers.
Finally, the farmer sells Gulliver to the Queen. At court, she meets the King, and the two spend many sessions discussing the customs and behaviors of the country of Gulliver. In many cases, the King is shocked and disgusted by the selfishness and pettiness that he hears Gulliver describe who, on the other hand, defends England.
One day, on the beach, while looking nostalgically at the sea from his box (portable room), an eagle grabs him and finally throws him into the sea. A passing ship sees the floating chest and rescues Gulliver, and eventually returns him to England and his family.
In this part, he goes on a boat bound for Levante. After arriving, Gulliver is assigned a sloop captain to visit nearby islands and establish trade. On this trip, the pirates attack the sloop and put Gulliver in a small boat to fend for himself.
While sailing in the sea, Gulliver discovers a flying island. While on the Flying Island, called Laputa, Gulliver meets several inhabitants, including the King. Everyone is concerned about things associated with math and music. Furthermore, astronomers use the laws of magnetism to move the island up, down, forward, backward and sideways, thus controlling the movements of the island relative to the island below (Balnibarbi).
While on this earth, Gulliver visits Balnibarbi, the island of Glubbdubdrib, and Luggnagg. Gulliver finally arrives in Japan, where he meets the Japanese emperor. From there, he goes to Amsterdam and finally to England.
While Gulliver is captain of a merchant ship bound for Barbados and the Leeward Islands, several of his crew become ill and die on the voyage. Gulliver hires several replacement sailors in Barbados. These replacements turn out to be pirates who convince the other crew members of a riot.
Gulliver decides to go to a “thread” (an island) to fend for himself. Almost immediately, he is discovered by a herd of ugly, despicable, and human creatures called Yahoos. They attack him by climbing trees and defecating on him. He is saved from this misfortune by the appearance of a horse by the name of Houyhnhnm. The gray horse leads Gulliver home, where he is introduced to the mare (wife), two potrod (children), and a sorrel (the servant).
Gulliver also sees that the Yahoos are kept in pens far from the house. It becomes immediately apparent that, except for Gulliver’s clothing, he and the Yahoos are the same animal. From this moment on, Gulliver and his teacher begin a series of discussions on the evolution of Yahoos, on topics, concepts and behaviors related to the Yahoo society, which Gulliver represents, and on the Houyhnhnms society.
Despite the good treatment offered, the Kingdom Assembly determines that Gulliver is a Yahoo and must either live with the disbelieving Yahoos or return to his own world. With great sadness, Gulliver says goodbye to the Houyhnhnms.
He builds a canoe and sails to a nearby island where a crew from a Portuguese ship is finally found. The ship’s captain returns to Gulliver to Lisbon, where he lives in the captain’s house. Gulliver is so repelled by the sight and smell of these “civilized Yahoos” that he cannot bear to be around them.
Eventually, however, Gulliver agrees to return to his family in England. Upon arrival, he is rejected by his Yahoo family, so he buys two horses and spends most of his days tending and chatting with the horses in the stable to be as far away from his Yahoo family as possible.
Genre: Fantasy satire
When it comes to a multi-genre text like Gulliver’s Travels, critics can easily put the book in a particular category. On one level, it appears to be a travel narrative, and the subtext appears to be political satire and fantasy, not a historical chronicle.
- Lemuel Gulliver: A traveler and adventurer. Gulliver is the protagonist of travel. He is an observer of other beings and other cultures.
- Golbasto Momaren: The Emperor of Liliput.
- Reldresal: A Lilliputian councilor, chief secretary for private affairs.
- Skyresh Bolgolam: High Admiral of Liliput, a counselor to the Emperor.
- Slamecksan and Tramecksan: Lilliputian political parties.
- Glumdalclitch: The daughter of Gulliver’s master at Brobdingnag.
- Rey de Laputa: He is concerned about mathematics and music.
- The Academy: They plan reforms without considering the effects.
- Munodi: The Governor of Lagado.
- The Struldbruggs: A race of humans who age without dying.
- Houyhnhnms: Superiors, totally rational horses, who are the masters of the Yahoos.
- Yahoos: The Nasty Anthropoids.
- The Gray Horse: Gulliver’s Master in the Land of the Houyhnhnms.
In each stage of Gulliver’s Travels, the fantasy elements are subordinated to Swift’s satire and critical thinking. Almost since the birth of the narrative, imaginative works of fiction have served as powerful platforms for social commentary.
Gulliver’s Travels are a satire, a satire is a fictional (usually fun) work that uses sarcasm and irony to mock humanity’s general patience. Jonathan Swift was one of the best satire writers English literature has ever seen.
Swift saw the book as politically explosive, and therefore as something he had to carefully present and position to avoid prosecution.