Who wrote this book and when?
That king of satirical authors – Jonathan Swift. It was published in 1726 and amended in 1735.
Has there been a film made of this book?
Many many versions. The most popular film versions are the cartoon version produced in 1939 by Paramount to compete with Disney’s “Snow White;” “The Three Worlds of Gulliver” by Ray Harryhausen, a 1977 action/musical version, and a 1996 tv miniseries featuring Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen.
Who are the main characters?
Gulliver – an Englishman with a penchant for sea adventures
The Lilliputians – tiny humans from Lilliput and Blefuscu
The inhabitants of Brobdingnag – giants, including Grumdalclitch, Gulliver’s caretaker
The people of Laputa – those who live on a flying city
The citizens of Balnibarbi – the extremely stupid people who live in a city which revolted from Laputa
Struldbrugs – people born cursed with immortality
The men and women of Glubbdrubdrib – people gifted by a king with the ability to call up the dead and talk to them
The Yahoos – wild, disgusting humans
The Houyhnhnms – intelligent, honorable, and peaceful horses who live in a near utopian society
What’s it about?
This tale begins with a letter from Gulliver informing us of the absolute truth of the story we’re about to hear. He claims in previous printings, some details were unfairly omitted and lets us know that everything is as it should be in this version.
We are allowed to follow Gulliver as he travels on four separate journeys to marvelous places inhabited by people both big and small, nonsensical and utopian. Gulliver himself learns the strengths and follies of his own race as he learns about each country’s intelligensia, governments, enemies and war rules, and entertainments. It changes his view of the human race forever.
Why is this book a classic?
Not only is this considered a great story, but one of the most complex and poignant satires of modern literature. Swift takes a close look at almost every type of government he is familiar with and examines their flaws and strenghts in an exaggerated fashion with each of the governments he comes into contact with.
Why should I read this book?
To get a better perspective of what humanity and our so called “civilizations” could be seen as from another viewpoint. We may think ourselves intelligent or stupid, but there’s always someone out there more so on either end of the spectrum.
Has it won any awards?
It was pre-award era, but George Orwell declared it “amongst the six most indispensble books in world literature.”
“Another professor showed me a large paper of instructions for discovering plots and conspiracies against the government. He advised great statesmen to examine the diet of all suspected persons; their times of eating; upon which side they lay in bed; with which hand they wiped their posteriors; to take a strict view of their excrements, and, from the colour, the odour, the taste, the consistence, the crudeness or maturity of digestion, form a judgement of their thoughts and designs. Because men are never so serious, thoughtful, and intent, as when they are at stool, which he found by frequent expirement; for in such conjunctures, when he used merely as a trial to consider which was the best way of murdering the king, his ordure would have a tincture of green, but quite different when he thought only of raising an insurrection or burning the metropolis.” – p 175
Most people consider the last voyage of Gulliver to be the most irrational of them all – and many critics believe this to be a sign of Swift’s deteriorating mental condition. Twenty years after this book was published, Swift died as a legally insane man.
The flying castle in Hiyao Miyazaki’s “Castle in the Sky” is named after this novel’s “Laputa.”
According to Wikipedia, there are three main themes: “a satirical view of the state of European government, an inquiry into whether man is inherently corrupt or whether men are corrupted, and a restatement of the older ‘ancients vs. moderns’ controversy.”
I loved this book at the beginning. I thought it was creative and fun and whimsical, especially for a satire. But by the third journey, I was dragging. The satire was coming on so thick the story was nearly ruined. Gulliver became so distant as a character I began to dislike him and none of the other characters, no matter how strange, could entertain me. Not that this book was originally meant for entertainment purposes.