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Why is Gulliver's Travels considered a great book?

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saipraneeth | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 9, 2013 at 1:22 PM via web

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Why is Gulliver's Travels considered a great book?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 17, 2013 at 12:44 AM (Answer #1)

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On one level, Gulliver's Travels is a wonderful work of fantasy, which is why it has endured nearly three centuries in abridged form as a children's story. But the real reason Gulliver's Travels maintains its place among canonical works of English literature is that it is a masterpiece of satire. Swift uses the bizarre creatures and people that Gulliver encounters to poke fun, and often to make serious political points about, his contemporaries. For example, once Gulliver lands among the Lilliputians, he discovers that their society is torn apart by political factions. The main difference between the two parties, called "Tramecksan" and "Slamecksan," is that one wears thin-soled shoes, while the other wears thick soles. The parallel with the bitter party strife in England would have been obvious to an eighteenth-century reader. Moreover, the Lilliputians are at war with the nearby island of Blefuscu. In this case, the cause has to do with an equally silly issue involving factionalism among the Lilliputians:

It is allowed on all hands that the primitive way of breaking eggs before we eat them was upon the larger end; but his present Majesty's grandfather while he was a boy, going to eat an egg, and breaking it according to the ancient practice, happened to cut one of his fingers. Whereupon the Emperor, his father, published an edict, commanding all his subjects, upon great penalties, to break the smaller end of their eggs.

The Blefescudians, we are told, often intervened to encourage discord over this issue. The parallel here is with Catholic France, often accused of fomenting rebellion among Catholics in Great Britain. This had been a source of antipathy between the French and British for more than a century, and Swift minimizes the significance of the issue by comparing it to a dispute over the correct way to break an egg. Gulliver's Travels is full of this kind of social criticism, which is a major reason many scholars and general readers have rated it so highly.

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