Swift’s jaundiced view of the politics and mores of the England of his day are elaborated in the form of four allegorical tales in which the narrator, Lemuel Gulliver, observes the local customs in foreign lands while becoming increasingly disenchanted with his own world. The transformation from the magnanimous benefactor of the Lilliputians (among whom Gulliver is a giant) to the misanthrope who can barely endure the company of his own family (preferring to live in his stable among horses) is accomplished with consummate narrative skill and a sure instinct for pretense and folly.
The first book, which focuses on Gulliver’s stay in Lilliput, offers a thinly disguised version of political squabbles that would have been fresh in the minds of Swift’s readers. The second book takes Gulliver to Brobdingnag, the land of giants, where his plans to provide the local ruler with cannons and gunpowder are viewed with contempt and horror. In the third section, Gulliver encounters the land of Laputa, the flying island, where a parody of the experimental science of Swift’s day is raucously played out, including schemes for capturing the sunbeams trapped in cucumbers and for turning human excrement back into nutritious substances. The fourth book sends Gulliver to the land of the Houyhnhnms, horses who have the power of speech. The Houyhnhnms, who are distinguished by their virtue and their reliance on reason, to the exclusion of emotion, rule over a race of...
(The entire section is 527 words.)
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