GULLIVER’S TRAVELS (1726)
LITERARY TREND AND AUTHOR CANON
- Written in the context of political and religious fighting in England;
- Swift radicalises the traits of the Enlightenment and treats them ironically;
- Swift writes not to “divert” the world but to “vex” it.
LITERARY GENRE AND TECHNIQUES
GENRE: satire, travel book
Satirical aspects in “Gulliver’s Travels”: it is a critique of the author’s contemporary society, which is represented under several aspects:
- Politics and religion (Lilliput);
- War (Brobdingnag);
- Science (Laputa);
- The moral side of humans (Houyhnhnms).
Literary technique specific to satire: PARODY.
- Parody aspects in “Gulliver’s Travels”: travel literature (genre-specific to Enlightenment literature): Gulliver travels to imaginary lands, where certain aspects of the author’s contemporary society are satirized.
- Several imaginary and fantastical lands, which Gulliver visits in his voyages: Liliput, Brobdingnag, Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib, Japan, and Houyhnhnms.
Main theme: condemnation of man’s faults (ignorance, cruelty, and pride). Humans are seen as essentially corrupt and only able to achieve moral progress by returning to a simpler way of living. The corrupt, faulty humanity is satirized through Gulliver’s encounters with fantastical societies. Human failings and original sin are symbolised through physical repulsion and disease throughout the novel.
- The limits of human understanding;
- Lies and deceit– Gulliver lies all the time;
- The individual vs society and class;
- Politics, religion, science;
- Physical power vs moral righteousness
- After his business fails, Lemuel Gulliver, a practical Englishman trained as a surgeon, embarks on a sea voyage. He narrates his adventures in several imaginary places.
Charcters presented in the analysis of the literary fragment should be adapted to the framgment itself.
- Gulliver – narrator and protagonist. Well-educated, but naïve. Offers strictly factual comments, with no emotional involvement. Fails to see the irony of the situations he encounters.
- The emperor of Liliput – Gulliver perceives him as impressive, but he is laughable and sinister.
- The king of Brobdingnag – a true intellectual, a figure of rational thought, but hideous appearance.
- Houyhnhnms – Rational horses who maintain a simple society, where reason and truthfulness prevail.
- Yahoos – humanlike beasts that live in servitude to the Houyhnhnms.
POINT OF VIEW
- 1st person, unreliable/ fallible narrator;
- Point of view – shifts. As Gulliver travels to different places, his viewpoint changes. Though the novel is narrated by Gulliver, he is an omniscient narrator.
- Irony pervades. The author is frequently ironical towards the main character, so Gulliver’s perspective is unreliable. The reader is also the target of irony, as it is easy to fall into the trap set by the narrator’s discourse. Sometimes Gulliver speaks for Swift and sometimes he doesn’t.
- Gulliver’s interpretation and evaluation of events are at odds with the author’s beliefs.
- In the beginning, the reader is misled into thinking that the narrator is reliable, but then the fallibility of the narrator is exposed, which adds humour.
- Clear and simple;
- Uses irony;
- Absurd, parodic language.