Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships – Original Title
More commonly known as Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
Readers: This book is an amusing book that can be read at many different levels, it doesn’t even have to be taken as a satire
Becoming an instant hit since it was published in 1726 (287 years ago) this work of satire has remained a household name. The reason being is that although this book was written so long ago it is written incredibly simple and is still very enjoyable. In fact if you wish it, this book can be read as a comedy instead of a satire. Because of this the first quarter of this book (the journey to Lilliput – land of the small) is often published, separately for children as Gulliver’s Travel’s. This is because this section is by far the most famous of the 4 parts. This had the unfortunate side effect that when one says Gulliver’s Travels, the book that you think of is NOT the actual book, rather an abridged, toned down version for children. So let me explain what Gulliver’s Travels actually is.
It is a satire and a parody of the “traveller’s tales” genre. It is commonly thought to be a rebuke and parody against Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe’s published a few years previously. The satirical side of it is brilliantly subtle, easily mistaken for some of the funniest paragraphs of writing in existence. Not much more can be said of the exact nature of the book, as I always try to keep spoiler’s out of these reviews. So onto the basic plot of the book.
The book is written in the form of a journal by Lemuel Gulliver who through the course of the novel experiences four disasters that leave him shipwrecked.Each time this happens he drifts ashore on an undiscovered land where humans have settled but with one key difference. On the first island , as I’m sure you know, the humans are tiny. On the second they are giants. As you may notice the two islands share the theme of size, however they are the reverse of each other. This is repeated again with intelligence on the third and fourth islands. The third island features highly intelligent and scientific humans while on the fourth the humans are exceedingly stupid and are uncivilised and living as animals while they are being ruled over by horses their intellectual superiors. By using these caricatures of humanity the writer is able to both create humour and to make several satirical views on humans and our behaviour.
“Judges… are picked out from the most dexterous lawyers, who are grown old or lazy, and having been biased all their lives against truth or equity, are under such a fatal necessity of favouring fraud, perjury and oppression, that I have known several of them to refuse a large bribe from the side where justice lay, rather than injure the faculty by doing any thing unbecoming their nature in office.”
“The tiny Lilliputians surmise that Gulliver’s watch may be his god, because it is that which, he admits, he seldom does anything without consulting.”
“And he gave it for his opinion, that whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.”
As said before, this reads like a comedy while still being a superb work of satire. It is still one of the most famous and most quoted works of satire despite the enormous time difference. Because its very short and so readable I recommend everyone to read this book when they are looking for their next read. For those who possess an E-reader, this book is freely available from Project Gutenberg a perfectly legal site that releases free electronic copies of books after it has received copyright clearance.