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A Classic for Young Readers as an Adventure Story:

“Gulliver’s Travels” is no doubt a story of adventure and it has several elements of a

fairy tale. Both adventure and fairy tale elements in a story appeal greatly to the young mind.
They have some charm even for the adult mind. But it would be an incorrect view to regard
“Gulliver’s Travels” as merely an adventure story intended for the entertainment of young
people. Gulliver’s tale is an allegorical satire. In other words, there lies below the surface a
deeper meaning. Swift’s real purpose was to expose the follies, absurdities and evils of
mankind in general.

Difficulties Faced by Gulliver in His Voyages:

Let’s take a look at “Gulliver’s Travels” as a tale of adventure which is a fanciful account of
strange and wonderful lands. The book tells us the story of Lemuel Gulliver. Every voyage is
an adventure in itself like seven voyages of Sindbad. There is, first of all, the voyage to a
country called Lilliput. Gulliver gets ship-wrecked and has to swim to the shore to save his
life. On the sea shore he falls into a sound sleep and when he wakes up, he finds himself a
prisoner in chains. In the second voyage Gulliver’s ship is overtaken by a fierce storm which
engulfs the sailors including Gulliver. However, when, after the storm, the ship casts anchor,
and a few sailors with Gulliver himself, are sent to the shore, Gulliver finds himself a captive
in the hands of a giant. In the course of his third voyage Gulliver’s ship is attacked by pirates.
The pirates depriving him of all his belongings put him on a small boat and set him adrift. Five
days later, the boat reaches a rocky island where Gulliver gets down very tired and desolate.
In the course of his fourth voyage, Gulliver is attacked by the members of the crew of his own
ship and is bound hand and foot. After a few days, the rascals put Gulliver down on the sea-
coast and sail away, leaving him alone. Gulliver finds himself in a new country about which he
knows nothing at all.

A story of Risks and Dangers:

The above brief account of the various voyages of Gulliver shows the
difficulties and dangers that Gulliver faced in the course of his wanderings.
Adventure always implies a risk of life or a danger to life. The man who has the spirit
of adventure in him is always ready to face risks and dangers. Gulliver sets out from
a comfortable life at home in order to explore unknown countries, knowing well that
he will face many difficulties and hardships. But every time he goes on a fresh voyage
willingly and experiences not only difficulties and hardships but also serious
dangers to his life. It is a miracle that each time he returns home safely.

The Amusing Experiences of Gulliver in the Strange Country of Dwarfs:

There are strange experiences of Gulliver in various lands. Every land which Gulliver
visits is a wonderful land, and Gulliver’s experiences in every land are strange or exciting. In
Lilliput the people are dwarfs, hardly six inches in height. The very idea that there are human
beings so small is funny. But more amusing than that is the manner in which Gulliver is fed.
Several ladders are applied by the Lilliputians to his sides, and about a hundred of them climb

up those ladders in order to carry baskets full of meat and drink and put them close to his
mouth. Similarly, it has taken nine hundred Lilliputians three hours to raise Gulliver to the
level of a huge carriage by which he is carried to the royal court. In the metropolis, Gulliver
becomes an object of curiosity, and people come from far and near to look at him. He is given
the name “man-mountain. One of the most amusing incidents in this part of the book is
Gulliver’s extinguishing a fire in the Empress’s apartment by urinating on it. The Empress feels
greatly annoyed with this action of Gulliver and moves from that apartment to a different
location. Some of the customs of the Lilliputians are also a source of amusement. For
instance, they bury their dead with the heads of the corpses directly downwards because
they hold belief that after eleven thousand moons the dead would rise from their graves and
that during this period the earth would turn upside down so that the dead would on coming
back to life, find themselves standing on their feet. Another comic absurdity of the Lilliputians
is their manner of writing which is very peculiar, being slant from one corner of the paper to
the other “like the ladies in England.”

Gulliver’s Exciting Experiences in the Country of Giants:

In part II of the book we find ourselves with Gulliver in another strange and wonderful
land. This land is called Brobdingnag. This land is inhabited by monstrous looking giants who
are twelve times the height of Gulliver. Gulliver thinks himself to be as small as Lilliputians
were by contrast with him. When Gulliver is first shown by his captor to his wife, she screams
and runs away as a woman in England might do at the sight of a toad or spider. The youngest
son in the family of Gulliver’s captor lifts Gulliver by the legs and holds him so high in the air
that Gulliver begins to tremble with fear. Gulliver sees a cat which is three times larger than
an ox in England, and feels greatly alarmed by its fierceness. When Gulliver wakes from his
sleep, he is attacked by a couple of rats which are of the size of a big dog. When Gulliver is
afterwards bought by the queen, he becomes a favourite with her. As a consequence, the
royal dwarf begins to feel jealous of Gulliver and plays much mischief with him. On one
occasion, the dwarf makes Gulliver fall into a large bowl of cream. On another occasion, he
thrusts Gulliver’s whole body into a bone from which the marrow has been taken out. There
are too many flies in Brobdingnag. The flies here are very large, like all other creatures, and
Gulliver feels much troubled by them as they hum and buzz about his ears. The reader would
perhaps not believe him and think that Gulliver is guilty of exaggeration.

Gulliver’s Account of the Life in Laputa, Lagado, etc:

Laputa, the voyage to which is described in part III of the book, is another wonderful
land. Laputa is an island which keeps flying at a height of about two miles from the earth over
the continent of Balnibarbi. This in itself is a miracle. The people of Laputa have strange
shapes and faces. Their heads are all reclined either to the right or to the left, one of their
eyes being turned inward and the other directly up to the zenith. Another strange feature of
life on Laputa is that mutton, beef, pudding, and other eatables are given geometrical shapes.
When these people want to praise the beauty of a woman or any other animal they do so in
geometrical or musical terms. There are several schemes being developed at the school of
political projects also. These are all very amusing and impractical schemes. Gulliver’s visit to
the island of Glubbdubdrib is also very interesting because Gulliver here finds himself in a
place where ghosts and spirits are in attendance upon the governor and where Gulliver is
enabled to hold conversations with the spirits of such great men of the past as Alexander,

Hannibal, Aristotle, Homer, and Brutus. Gulliver also sees a group of immortal people in this
place. These immortals are feeling wretched and miserable because they long for death
which does not come to them.

Another Wonderland in Part IV of the Book:

The country of the Yahoos and the Houyhnhnms, described in part IV, is also a
wonderland. This is a country in which human beings are no better than beasts, while the
horses or the Houyhnhnms are the noblest conceivable animals. They are wholly governed by
reason; they have a language of their own which they are able even to teach to a human
being like Gulliver; they have their own excellent customs and methods of government; they
are guided by the principles of benevolence and kindness. These strange beings are free from
all kinds of evils, so much so that there is no word in their language for lying or falsehood.

The Charm of these Accounts:

The appeal of all the first three voyages for the young readers is manifest from the
above summary. There is plenty of fun and mirth in the accounts of these three voyages.
Indeed, some of the episodes are bound to give rise to boisterous laughter among the
readers. In other words, the description of some of the incidents is really hilarious. No
wonder that one of the early commentators called “Gulliver’s Travels” a merry work. It is
evident; too, that improbability is the keynote of most of the incidents. The grown up
readers, for instance, will not even believe in the existence of Lilliputians and
Brobdingnagian. But the young readers are bound to feel excited by descriptions of these
strange people and their doings, and will not doubt the existence of pigmies and giants. For
them the accounts of these people’s life will have a charm of their own.

Finally, it must be pointed out that it is not enough to describe “Gulliver’s Travels” merely as
an adventure story or a tale of wonder. We must recognize that in it Swift has lashed human
institutions and human passions. It is a satiric masterpiece in which Swift exposes human
follies and absurdities, and the consequences of human irrationality.




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