Introduction to Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver’s Travels is a fictional traveler's tale by Jonathan Swift. It focuses on the adventures of Lemuel Gulliver, who is also credited as the author in the earliest editions of the work. Published in 1726, it was very popular, with some readers identifying the satirical elements, while others mistakenly believed that the work was an actual traveler’s account. However, some people found the novel offensive, especially members of the British Whig Party, which Gulliver’s Travels satirizes and mocks. The novel has since been adapted and reprinted numerous times, with some productions and publications choosing to frame it as a children’s adventure story and others embracing its satirical roots. Gulliver’s fictional escapades take him to four different islands, each of which contains a fantastical race of people. Lilliputians are miniature humans, Brobdingnagians are giants, the residents of Laputa are obsessed with bizarre and pointless scientific pursuits, and Houhynhnms are sentient horses who rule over the humanoid Yahoos. Over the course of his travels, Gulliver becomes plagued by a sense of misanthropy, or dislike for humanity. This is cemented by his time with the Houyhnhnms, who regard the Yahoos as savage and unintelligent creatures. Gulliver internalizes this belief, and upon returning to Europe, he is disgusted by his fellow humans. It is through the lenses of these fantastical beings that life in England is satirized most effectively, as the vices and corruptions within British society are estranged from the familiar contexts in which most readers would have engaged with them.

A Brief Biography of Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift (1667–1745) was an Anglo-Irish writer. Though his classic book Gulliver’s Travels is often referred to as youth reading, it is in fact an audacious satire on the society in which Swift lived. Swift complemented his satirical work with essays and pamphlets on government and society; his commentary often put him at odds with political parties as well as the monarchy. Swift’s battles were also artistic, as evidenced by “An Essay Upon Ancient and Modern Learning,” which ardently defended classical writing and set off a debate that spanned numerous volumes written by several authors. In “A Modest Proposal,” Swift mockingly proposed that the rich make meals out of poor people’s babies. It was this kind of dark whimsy, in which harsh criticism was wrapped in effervescent ridiculousness, that ultimately defined the work of Jonathan Swift.

Frequently Asked Questions about Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver goes to sea to make money after his attempts at setting up a medical practice fail. Gulliver is a surgeon by training rather than a sailor, but he has had previous experience at sea, since...

Latest answer posted January 2, 2021, 1:04 pm (UTC)

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Gulliver's Travels

Lemuel Gulliver is a classic everyman character, perhaps even an extreme version of such a character type. The everyman is usually a humble character designed to serve as either a stand-in for the...

Latest answer posted January 2, 2021, 12:11 pm (UTC)

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Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver becomes a misanthrope as a result of his adventures. At the start of the novel, he is an even-tempered, open-minded man with little in the way of strong passions or even much in the way of...

Latest answer posted January 2, 2021, 12:29 pm (UTC)

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Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels is most famous for the four fantastical lands that the titular character encounters on his journeys. The first lands are Lilliput and Blefuscu, which are island nations inhabited...

Latest answer posted January 2, 2021, 12:48 pm (UTC)

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Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels is a political satire, and while it is true that human governance and society have evolved dramatically from the Early Modern culture and customs which Swift himself addressed,...

Latest answer posted January 2, 2021, 1:34 pm (UTC)

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Gulliver's Travels

The people of Lilliput have funerary customs based around the fact that they believe the Earth on which they are living to be flat and therefore oriented in a particular direction. The Lilliputian...

Latest answer posted January 3, 2021, 11:56 am (UTC)

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Gulliver's Travels

After spending time among the Houyhnhnms, a race of talking horses who base their entire society's organization on cold, amoral logic, Gulliver's return to human (or as he now terms it, Yahoo)...

Latest answer posted January 3, 2021, 11:57 am (UTC)

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Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's experiences in Brobdingnag are quite the opposite of his experiences in Lilliput, for the simple reason that his size in relation to the Brobdingnags is the opposite of his size in...

Latest answer posted January 3, 2021, 12:04 pm (UTC)

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Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver was originally trained as a surgeon under the tutelage of Mr. James Bates, a London-based surgeon. While studying under him as an apprentice for four years, Gulliver also spent time...

Latest answer posted January 3, 2021, 12:12 pm (UTC)

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Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver arrives in the land of the Houyhnhnms in May 1711. He leaves the country, at the request of his master, in February of either 1714 or 1715. Therefore, we know that Gulliver must have...

Latest answer posted January 3, 2021, 12:13 pm (UTC)

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Gulliver's Travels

Flimnap, the lord high treasurer of Lilliput, is Gulliver's secret enemy. Even though he outwardly treats Gulliver very well—or, as Gulliver puts it, "caressed me more than was usual to the...

Latest answer posted January 3, 2021, 12:20 pm (UTC)

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Gulliver's Travels

From almost the moment of Gulliver's arrival in Lilliput, Skyresh Bolgolam, or the high-admiral, has been his "mortal enemy." A messenger comes to Gulliver to explain to him that, since Gulliver's...

Latest answer posted January 3, 2021, 12:28 pm (UTC)

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Gulliver's Travels

The farmer who takes Gulliver in when he arrives in the land of the Brobdingnagians recognizes that there is considerable money to be made by taking Gulliver all around the country and showing him...

Latest answer posted January 3, 2021, 12:37 pm (UTC)

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Gulliver's Travels

A satire is a comic work that criticizes negative elements of society, individuals, government, or other entities. Techniques such as exaggeration, parody, and irony are common tools used by...

Latest answer posted January 3, 2021, 12:39 pm (UTC)

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Gulliver's Travels

To be gullible is to unquestioningly believe what you are told or to be easily persuaded to accept absurdity or falsehood. As his name implies, one of Gulliver's chief traits is gullibility. To be...

Latest answer posted January 3, 2021, 12:47 pm (UTC)

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Gulliver's Travels

Lilliput and its rival nation, Blefuscu, are at war with one another over how to properly eat eggs. Most Lilliputians believe one should break the small end of the egg before eating it, while the...

Latest answer posted January 4, 2021, 12:02 pm (UTC)

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Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver arrives on the island of Lilliput by chance. While serving as ship surgeon on the Antelope, a ship headed for the South Seas, Gulliver and the crew encounter a windstorm. Most of the crew...

Latest answer posted January 4, 2021, 12:16 pm (UTC)

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Gulliver's Travels

The most important physical difference between the Lilliputians and the Brobdingnagians can be thought of in terms of their relationship with Gulliver and his size. If we imagine that Gulliver is...

Latest answer posted January 4, 2021, 12:23 pm (UTC)

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Gulliver's Travels

Over a series of five audiences, Gulliver tells the king about the makeup of England and its colonies, and offers a highly idealized account of its governance. He says that its leaders in the...

Latest answer posted January 4, 2021, 12:33 pm (UTC)

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Gulliver's Travels

Despite all of the trouble he went through in Lilliput, Gulliver is able to make some profit from the adventure. Before his departure for home, Gulliver takes some diminutive cattle with him: six...

Latest answer posted January 4, 2021, 3:36 pm (UTC)

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Summary