In choosing persons for all employments, they have more regard to good morals than to great abilities; for, since government is necessary to mankind, they believe that the common size of human understandings is fitted to some station or other, and that Providence never intended to make the management of public affairs a mystery, to be comprehended only by a few persons of sublime genius, of which there seldom are three born in an age: but they suppose truth, justice, temperance, and the like, to be in every man’s power; the practice of which virtues, assisted by experience and a good intention, would qualify any man for the service of his country, except where a course of study is required. – from Gulliver’s Travels, page 44 –
Jonathan Swift penned his most well-known novel, Gulliver’s Travels, in 1726. Most readers are familiar with the first part of the book – Gulliver’s journey to Lilliput where he is taken captive by the diminutive Lilliputians, and later lives among them for several months. But the full novel is actually written in four parts where Gulliver travels to several other locations, meeting other strange and fascinating creatures.
In part two, he finds himself in danger of being crushed by the huge inhabitants of Brobdinghag whose size is roughly twelve times that of Gulliver. Gulliver is rescued from this community by an eagle, who seizes the traveling box in which Gulliver sleeps, and drops it into the ocean where he is picked up by an English vessel.
Part three introduces the reader to the flying island of Laputa where the inhabitants are thrilled by music and mathematics, but have no practical skills.
Finally (in part four), Gulliver makes his way to the country of the Houyhnhnms who are actually horses who rule the country and the deformed creatures (“Yahoos”) who are, in fact, human beings in their base form. Gulliver is welcomed into a horse’s household, and eventually rejects humans as merely Yahoos with very little reasoning ability which simply adds to the vices Nature has given them. Eventually Gulliver is expelled from the country as he is seen as a danger to civilization.
Gulliver’s Travels is primarily a satire which pokes fun at European government, and the petty differences between religions. The Lilliputians perhaps are the most petty of all – squabbling over the size of their shoe heels, and going to war with their closest neighbors because of a disagreement over how to eat an egg. The book becomes darker as it progresses, with Gulliver moving from an optimistic and rather innocent character, to one whose view of the world becomes more cynical.
Although I found this novel to be an interesting read, I must admit that some of the long, circular sentences left me skimming at times. This book is full of cultural, political and religious references which might be best explored as part of a book club or in a classroom. For the reader simply looking for an entertaining book, Gulliver’s Travels might be a little too deep.
Despite some of my reservations, Gulliver’s Travels is a good classic novel. As with many people, my favorite section was the first. It is hard not to be delighted with Gulliver’s time spent in Lilliput.
Recommended for readers of classic literature.
- Released just in time for Christmas – December 25th.
- Directed by Rob Letterman and starring Jack Black as Gulliver.
Jack Black is bigger than ever…as Gulliver, a perpetual underachiever and wannabe travel writer at a New York newspaper. When he finally makes an effort to actually venture out the city to write a travel piece, a storm-tossed voyage lands him on an island inhabited by tiny folks called Lilliputians. After a rocky beginning, the gargantuan Gulliver becomes an inspiration to his new six-inch-tall friends. He brings them modern-day wonders like a PDA and music video game – while they help him kick it old-school during his travels through this unforgettable world.
Want to see the movie trailer?
Looks fun, doesn’t it? And who doesn’t love Jack Black!?!??
FTC Disclosure: The book was sent to me by the publisher for review and movie tie-in promotion.
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