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GULLIVER's Travels-Its Structure

GULLIVER's Travels-Its Structure

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Published by AbdulRehman

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Published by: AbdulRehman on Feb 04, 2010
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06/19/2012

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GULLIVER’S TRAVELS:ITS STRUCTURE
Uncertainties and Surprises in the Narrative:
The book “Gulliver’s Travels” is a satirical work which embraces many levels of intention and execution. Most accounts of imaginary societies sooner or later givethemselves away by allowing their underlying logic to become too apparent, so that whenthere are no further surprises in store the effect becomes monotonous. In this sense there isnothing obvious about Gulliver’s Travels. The book keeps our interest at every point becausewe are never able to anticipate what is going to happen, and when something does happenwe are not always sure what our response should be. The contradictory details andincongruities in the narrative add to our perplexities.
Two Contrasts in the Book:
“Gulliver’s Travels” begins like a genuine account by an actual ship’s surgeon, and thereader of 1726 might well have wondered, until he came to Gulliver’s awakening after comingto shore, whether this was not a book of sober fact. Gulliver is perfectly in character – aCambridge man, scientifically-minded, curious to observe the manners and dispositions of foreign lands, and a competent linguist. The world was full of just such professional sailorswho felt that, in publishing accounts of their travels, they were contributing to scientificknowledge. Gulliver’s prose style is of the kind which had the approval of the Royal Society; itis seemingly matter of fact, free of literary colouring, recording observed details with thefullness and precision of some scientific instrument. As an imaginary voyage, “Gulliver’sTravels” is a superb parody, which preserves much of the spirit and the imaginative principleof the real voyages. Furthermore, as the political allegory comes and goes we are left withfurther questions and further points of reference to keep track of. The tone modulates fromthat of a harsh accusation of crime and folly to one of good-natured fantasy. It was onceassumed that Gulliver and Swift was the same person; but subsequently it was realized thatSwift had created a fictional character. To say that Gulliver is not Swift but an imaginarycharacter, merely raises a new set of questions. Who is Gulliver? What is it that happens tohim? How have he and his experiences been contrived by this satirist who has succeeded inwriting an amusing book, that has never ceased to “Vex” the world.
Three Strands in the First Pattern:
We can understand the structure of “Gulliver’s Travels” by considering certainpatterns that seem to run through the book. Three strands enter into this: the account of actual travels, the imaginary voyage, and a parody of the latter. In other words, we have abasic theme, a variation on the basic theme, and sometimes a variation on the variation. Theutopian passages in both Parts I and IV look in two ways at once. The Lilliputians have---oronce had---many admirable institutions, but these sometimes overreach themselves in theway that utopian institutions have always done ever since the time of Plato. The nurseries forchildren of noble and high birth are run on admirable principles, and it is no doubt well thatthere are provisions which make it impossible for these children to be spoiled by their dotingparents, but only a confirmed utopia-maker could have devised one in which the parents can
 
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see their children only twice a year, with their visits lasting not more than an hour, wherethey are allowed to kiss the children only at meeting and parting.
The Second Pattern, Underlying the Sequence of the Four Voyages:
A second pattern is the one underlying the sequence of the four voyages. It seems tobe a weakness in the structure that Part III should intervene between Gulliver’s experiencesin Brobdingnag and his later experiences in the country of the Houyhnhnms. But whatappears to be a fault from the purely logical point of view seems to justify itself from theartistic point of view. In the first voyage, we are not sure for sometime, nor is Gulliver, aboutthe true nature of the Lilliputians and their civilization, and though, eventually, Gulliver hasgood cause to conclude that these small people are as contemptible morally as they are smallin stature, this discovery does not leave him inwardly moved. Part II is more rigorous thanthis. Not only are the experiences less ambiguous but they bite more deeply into Gulliver’ssensibilities. Part IV really begins psychologically where the second leaves off, for theintensity of Gulliver’s reactions produces in him a state of shock which causes him to lose hisself-esteem as one of the human race. The intervention of the third voyage scattered in itseffects and only once in the episode of Struldbrugs producing a marked psychic reaction onGulliver’s part, is almost a functional necessity. This is only one of the several details which iseasy enough to make out in this sequential pattern. Gulliver having seen himself in relation tolittle men in part I and then big men in part II, is finally and suddenly forced into comparisonnot with men at all but with animals in part IV. This last situation is further complicated in sofar as the comparison is not simple but complex, because there are two orders of animalsbetween which poor Gulliver stands dubiously.
The Third Pattern: The Ironic Mode.
The third pattern might be described as the ironic mode in which much of “Gulliver’sTravels” has been cast. By means of this pattern, control is exercised over the book as awhole and over many of the details. The irony here is of a kind that came naturally to morethan one 18
th
Century writer, Goldsmith, being another who understood its use. The narrativeand dramatic literature of the Enlightenment dealt freely with current ideas, but did so in itsown way. Theories about man and society appear constantly in the plays and narratives of the period, and frequently assume major importance as a thematic element. These conceptsand principles are often brought before us in a perfectly direct and straightforward manner,and are to be understood as generalizations to which everyone subscribes as a matter of course.
The comedy of Exploration and Exclusion:
Comedy, in Swift, is sometimes the comedy of discontinuity. We strip, we analyze, andwe are shocked by the discrepancy which we find between appearance and reality. Again, wehave what we come to recognize as comedy in terms of a special situation: a certain state of affairs begins to define itself, becomes increasingly and arrogantly certain of its own identity,and grows, expands, improvises, aggrandizes itself at the expense of everything within reach.When Gulliver, on hearing of the Struldbrugs, assumes that they are universally envied fortheir immortality he is permitted by his hosts to indulge in eloquent praise of the blessings of long life before being shown the repulsive truth. Ordinarily Gulliver is not deceived in this

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