Jonathan Swift was not a happy man. A simple fact clearly alluded to in his allegorical adventure story: Gullivers travels. Wit, sarcastic humor, and clear cut jabs at the heart of European society are liberally sprinkled throughout the book. From a philosophical stand point, I believe this book is meant to tear out any ounce of extra confidence or optimism that you held for the human race.
On a lighter note: Jonathan Swift had a very good imagination. On the outside this is an adventure story, and a fun one at that. Swift’s work is concise and easy to read. His philosophy is weaved into a face paced story, that adds interest for every age group. Part classic, part dime-novel-bordering-on-page-turner, Swift hides his philosophy amongst entertainment. This is a rare quality in pre-21st century literature.
I think anyone, even any child, could appreciate and enjoy the fun of a man’s strange sailing tales. The book is divided into four parts, with each part taking the main character to a different (and equally strange) land. First Gulliver finds himself living amongst tiny humans, only six inches tall. His adventures are varied and fun to ponder. Subsequently the entire story is flipped and he winds up in a land of giants. Now he is the tiny one; once again his stories are fun and exciting. Next he falls ( or rather climbs) into a floating city of intellectuals. Where the thoughts of these people ( though normal in size) are almost the most ridiculous of them all. Lastly he meets a country of rational and noble horses. Here humans ( or yahoos) are the savage work animals and horses rule the land in a perfect image of an undeniably impossible utopia.
The stories are well told and strange enough to capture the attention of even the most shallow youngster. Minus a few revolting unnecessary details and inappropriate jokes, it could almost stand alone as a children’s adventure story. Yet within the outer shell lies a far deeper message waiting to be told. Each story is saturated with Swift’s ideas and grievances against European society of his time.
Jonathan Swift is a talented writer and his book is not daunting or hard to read. I do not agree with his ideas. I do share very few of his harsh opinions. I was revolted by some of the jokes and claims that he makes. And yet if your going to write a pessimistic diatribe to release all the steam you have about the world in general, why not mask it under the guise of a fun adventure book? I commend him for channeling his views in a (mostly) dignified manner.
So if that is what you thought of when I said “Gullivers Travels”, you may be suffering
from the over-movie-ified-american syndrome.
Easily cured – just remember:
never judge a book by it’s movie.
Never never never.
And always read the book first.
See also :
Mr. Poppers Penguins
The Secret Garden
The Black Cauldron
the list goes on and on…