Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

My understanding of Gulliver’s Travels was that it is a children/young adult adventure story. I really don’t know how I formed this opinion, but it was how I viewed this book until now. I was very much surprised to find that this is no children/YA story, nor an ordinary adventure story. It is a prosaic satire directed at human nature and human conduct. There is the adventure of course, but only to provide the background to work on satire.

The story consists of four different voyages of Gulliver and the many adventures that he encounters in the process. Swift uses Gulliver’s experiences during these adventures and his trials to satirize human nature and human conduct generally. There is no branch that escapes Swift’s satire. Human greed for power and avarice are two areas that meet heavily with his satire. Under the first category, European governments (including his own), their politics, their diplomacy, and international relations come under heavy blows. Under the second category, many individuals ranging from politicians, lawyers, doctors to common men and women suffer from his lashes.

The story is written in a “Voltairean” style. It was partly interesting, partly boring, partly annoying, and partly offensive. I cannot really say that I “liked” the story, but this odd combination kept me going through it. According to Wikipedia, Swift has claimed to have written the book “to vex the world rather than divert it’. I certainly think he achieved his objective. 🙂 And for my part, I think I’ve done fairly well and paid him his due. 🙂

Rating: 3/5

About the author

Piyangie Jay Ediriwickrema is an Attorney-at-Law by profession. Her devotion to literature has taken shape in reading and reviewing books of various genres set in different periods of time. She dabs at a little poetry and fiction of her own and hopes to share her work with the readers in the future.

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