Understanding Gulliver's Travels

Understanding Gulliver's Travels

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Gulliver's Travels        


Jonathan Swift wrote Gulliver's Travels in 1762 with the intent of entertaining many people.  Entertainment through satire is what Swift had in mind.  To fully understand Gulliver's Travels, one must first reflect upon the following:  the plot, character,  setting, theme, point of view, conflict, climax, resolution, symbolism, and figurative language.  These ideas will help the reader comprehend some of the ideas portrayed throughout the novel, as well as why Swift wrote them. 

            The setting plays an important role in all novels, but in Gulliver's Travels, one must take into consideration that the four different parts of the book have different settings.  The first setting is more or less on an island called Lilliput, on November 5, 1699.  Gulliver ended up on this island due to a ship wreck.  The setting to the second part of the novel happens to be upon his arrival to another island that Gulliver wishes to inspect for water.  This was on the 16th of June, 1703.  The third part of the book has many different little scenes.  The first of which takes place on Laputa an island of deformed creatures.  The fourth and final part of the book takes place in the country of Houyhnhnms, in 1711. 

            The main character, Gulliver, is a well educated sailor.  He has been recommended to be a surgeon.  Traveling around the world, exploring new places, Gulliver meets many new cultures and civilizations.  Gulliver wears clothes not uncommon to the 1700's.  He has long hair, that sometimes restricts him from turning his head.  Gulliver is a round character.  This can be seen when he refers to past experiences during an adventure.  This means that he can compare the two situations, thus learning from it.  There are many minor characters.  Easier referred to by the names of their people.  Them being:  the small Lilliputians, the giant Brobdingnags, the creatures at Lugnagg and Balnibarbi, with the islands of Laputa and Blubdrubdrib.  And finally, the Yahoos and Houyhnhnms.  Gulliver's stories are told in the first person by himself. 

            Some very important symbols are used throughout the novel to depict some very important ideas.  One of these symbols would be when Gulliver relieves himself on the Lilliputians royal castle to put out a fire.  It seems, as though how silly something may seem,  it just might be an answer to an important problem.

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  A second symbol clearly seen is the relationship to the Yahoos and the Houyhnhnms.  This is easily perceived as a representation of the relationship to horses and humans.  The superiority of the horses in the novel shows  how, although different, they may just be as smart, if not smarter than the owner. 

            Some very important themes that the reader may have picked up on can be very helpful.  One of these themes is that no matter how small something is, it is not inferior.  Gulliver stayed with the Lilliputians for a very long time.  The fact that they were only six inches tall did not mean that he could do anything he wanted around or to them.  Another theme that the reader should have got is that no matter how large something is, it still has to have a small amount of brains.  The giants in the second part were very tall, but nowhere did the book say that they were very smart.                        

            There are many different conflicts throughout the novel as well.  Some of these being internal, and others being external.  One of the internal conflicts  can be seen when Gulliver is tied down by the Lilliputians.  Gulliver has a chance to snatch up many of the little creatures, but knows that they will most likely shoot him with needle-like arrows.  An external conflict is between Gulliver's crew against nature.  Many times Gulliver gets blown off course by a storm or has his boat overturned by waves.  This is an example of human against nature.   

            Some of the literary devices that Swift uses in Gulliver's Travels are satire and irony.  Swift wrote the novel as a parody of travel books and an indictment of mankind;  it is revered as a charming children's story.  The ironies Swift intended to be recognized-the small-mindedness of the tiny Lilliputians, the physical and moral abnormality of the giant Brobdingnagians, and the perfect animalizing of the filthy manlike Yahoos (far inferior to the placid horses they work for)-are often ignored or dismissed. 

            After considering all of this, the reader should have a better understanding of the novel.  Being able to pay a greater attention to the details of a novel always helps one understand the greater, more broad ideas following them.  Jonathan Swift was a magnificent author.  Without his Gulliver's Travels, there would be a great gap in the art of Literature.
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