Does Gulliver change as the story progresses, and does he learn from his adventures?

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parkerlee eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gulliver's Travels is a political satire; the main characters represent situations and institutions rather than portraying credible people. Gulliver is more of a flat character than a round one. The confrontations he has in different lands give a situational context for exposing certain attitudes metaphorically rather than being a springboard for character development in a linear (story line) form:

Swift does not create a sense of reality about Gulliver....He has the most minimal subjective life; even his passion at the end is hardly rooted in personality. He is, in fact, an abstraction, manipulated in the service of satire....

The paucity of Gulliver's inner life needs little documentation. To be sure, he is shown as decent and kindly and honorable, at the beginning... But his life is primarily of the senses. He sees—how superbly he sees!—he hears, smells, feels. Poke him and he twitches; but there is little evidence of rational activity.... Except for an occasional (dramatically inconsistent) episode where he is startled into an expression of bitterness, Gulliver's is a life without nuance. The nuances are there, of course, everywhere, but must be supplied by the reader....

[The] overriding function [of the climactic two chapters of the fourth voyage] is to develop with cold implacability the horror of English civilization as Gulliver sees it....

                                   - from enotes, 'The Satirist Satirized'

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Gulliver's Travels

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