Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift — Reviewed by Guy Portman
Intrepid English adventurer Lemuel Gulliver’s fictional memoirs are divided into four parts. In the first our shipwrecked protagonist is washed ashore in the land of Lilliput, a place populated by people so tiny that he is a giant by comparison. When Gulliver finds himself in the giant inhabited realm of Brobingnag, the roles are reversed. Viewed as a curiosity, he ends up in the Queen’s court, only to later escape. A third voyage incorporates a floating island called Laputa, a race of immortals and a visit to Japan. The final trip is to a country where the dominant species are houyhnhnms, an intelligent race of horses, who preside over the untamed, human-resembling Yahoos.
First published in 1726, Gulliver’s Travels is a humorous and vulgar satirical work that mocks politics, non-conformist churches, science, the social order and the accepted role of the family. Contemporary readers will require the index to understand the numerous political references. The text’s Old English peculiarities include frequent utilisation of an before a vowel, and the word victual in place of food.
This reader appreciated the author’s caustic wit, and his adept allegorical storytelling, particularly in the early adventures in Lilliput and Brobingnag. However, in his opinion the book becomes increasingly tedious and turgid, and in part four descends into little more than misanthropic ranting.