You are on page 1of 3

Gullivers Travels - Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) Gullivers Travels (1726) pseudo-authenticity original readers fooled: an actual account of exotic

travels 4 Books / Parts corresponding to 4 voyages: 1699 - 1715 Parts I, II and III Lilliput tiny people o Swift satirizes the court around Queen Anne - imagine themselves to be people of consequence Brobdingnag -rural giants Gulliver is doll-sized o Traditional - most pleasant of the imaginary countries Laputa - a scientific utopia. o the advanced scientific thinkers of his age = geeks o the Struldbrugs immortal decaying, suffering an eternity of pain and mental infirmity as they fall to pieces but cannot die Part IV: Houyhnhnm Land rulers are horses, and homo sapiens are horrific apes examines the flawed nature of humanity itself Point of View First-person narrator: Lemuel Gulliver unreliable Naive, sometimes even arrogant Reader sceptical about the ideas presented in the book Tone: dry, matter-of-fact Swift has Gulliver quote Sinon (Virgil, Aeneid, II, 7980). o Sinon declares that he is telling the truth; in context, he is lying wholeheartedly Can we trust Gulliver? Dr. Lemuel Gulliver Gulliver gullible Lemuel Biblical: urged by mother to judge rightly and plead the cause of the poor and needy Honest, hardworking, curious and good at languages Typical middle-class Englishman surgeon/doctor Naive and easily influenced by others Goes mad when he has to confront the imperfections of humanity Gulliver turns into a misanthrope Humans cannot be perfect holding to that ideal leads to misanthropy. Forging an identity Swift positions Gulliver midway between the super-rational, innocent horses and the filthy, depraved Yahoos 1

Clothing a device artificial and distinguishes Gulliver o Food o Institutions The Houyhnhnms A utopian or ideal society (?) Unfamiliar concepts: lying, deceit, jealousy, or hatred, politics, war, law, religion love all Houyhnhnm equally no passion Partners chosen according to geneticsto produce the healthiest offspring communal schooling Democratic government (?) Ideal but. Only evil Yahoos Justify use of physical force against Yahoos Debate: Exterminate the Yahoos and raise asses Are decisions based on moral righteousness not just excuses to subjugate others? Yahoos several animals - partially covered with hair and standing on their hind legs able to climb trees and leap with tremendous agility homo sapiens excrementus - an excremental vision of humanity Humankind at its worst Once a Yahoo, always a Yahoo! A Yahoo with reason = dangerous; poses a threat to their way of life Exile! Mutiny Gulliver, the captain of his vessel, is cast adrift by his men important - indicates the cruelty of man to man sets out to find savages but will encounter, instead, a civilized species Pride Leads Gulliver to reject his affiliation to the human race Starts to imitate the gait, gesture and speech of a horse Cannot see his pride, just like he could not see that he was also a Yahoo Humanity Houyhnhnms humanity in the Garden of Eden before the Fall the best that man can be Yahoos humanity after the Fall the worst that man can be Cannot return to that perfection man is by nature sinful The Human Condition Man by nature: deceitful, cruel, selfish, materialistic, vain, foolish, and otherwise flawed 2

Man capable of reason: reason is not always used for good Rationality and institutions governments, churches, and social structures (schools, for example) exist to rein in man's tendency to sin Swifts Political Satire By distorting reality makes the utopia look better Levels most of his satire at upper classes lawyers, judges, doctors, soldiers, monarchs, noblemen Attacks partisan politics, unchecked corruption, dubious qualifications of politicians all true even today Utopian Literature Platos Republic Mores Utopia Communal v individual o Children o Marriage Comparison? Houyhnhnms no individual identity interchangable Gulliver individual eternal wanderer; no sense of belonging to any society o Tries to fit in, but never can