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Regarded as the preeminent prose satirist in the English language, Jonathan Swift (1667–1745) intended this masterpiece, as he once wrote Alexander Pope, to "vex the world rather than divert it." Savagely ironic, it portrays man as foolish at best, and at worst, not much more than an ape. The direct and unadorned narrative describes four remarkable journies of ship's surgeon Lemuel Gulliver, among them, one to the land of Lilliput, where six-inch-high inhabitants bicker over trivialities; and another to Brobdingnag, a land where giants reduce man to insignificance. Written with disarming simplicity and careful attention to detail, this classic is diverse in its appeal: for children, it remains an enchanting fantasy. For adults, it is a witty parody of political life in Swift's time and a scathing send-up of manners and morals in 18th-century England.
I am certain that nearly every person in the Western world (and some beyond it) is familiar with the quintessential scene of "Gulliver's Travels," that of a man tied down to the ground and surrounded by tiny humans. I am equally certain however, that only a very small percentage of these people have actually read Jonathan Swift's satirical novel, first published in 1726. If you consider yourself a serious reader, then "Gulliver's Travels" is essential reading, one of the many classic novels that you simply *have* to read before you die.
Divided into four parts, "Gulliver's Travels" is presented as the historical memoirs of Lemuel Gulliver who narrates his strange adventures in undiscovered countries. In doing so, Swift explores and satirises almost every conceivable issue important in both his time and in ours: politics, religion, gender, science, progress, government, family and our basic ideas of defining humanity. As well as this, the novel is full of wonder and humour (some of it bordering on the vulgar!) and Swift's exploration of imaginary societies and countries is satire at its peak - no one before or since has reached Swift's mastery of this style.
Some of the more direct parodies concern people and events that have long since passed away, and as such an index or extensive background is required in order to fully understand the allusions that Swift is making. However, a far larger portion of the text discusses issues that are still relevant to today's readers, especially in the responsibilities of power and the limits to technological/scientific progression.
Part One: "A Voyage to Lilliput" is the most famous segment of the novel, and the context of the afore-mentioned "hostage episode".Read more ›
It's amazing how our perspective changes as we age. What we thought was important as children may now seem completely insignificant, replaced by entirely new priorities, priorities children wouldn't even understand. At the same time, things we used to take for granted, like having dinner on the table, being taken care of when we're ill, or getting toys fixed when they are broken, have become items on adult worry lists.
Your perspective on literature can change, too. Reading a story for a second time can give you a completely different view of it. "Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain, which I enjoyed as a sort of an adventure story when I was a kid, now reads as a harsh criticism of society in general and the institution of slavery in particular.
The same thing is true of "Gulliver's Travels" by Jonathan Swift. The first thing I realized upon opening the cover of this book as a college student was that I probably had never really read it before.
I knew the basic plot of Lemuel Gulliver's first two voyages to Lilliput and Brobdingnag, home of the tiny and giant people, respectively, but he had two other voyages of which I was not even aware: to a land of philosophers who are so lost in thought they can't see the simplest practical details, Laputa, and to a land ruled by wise and gentle horses or Houyhnhnms and peopled by wild, beastly human-like creatures called Yahoos.
While this book has become famous and even beloved by children, Jonathan Swift was certainly not trying to write a children's book.
Swift was well known for his sharp, biting wit, and his bitter criticism of 18th century England and all her ills.Read more ›
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift is classic work of satire and adventure that hardly needs my recommendation. Instead, let me comment on this edition published by Sterling. It's a nice hardcover with dustjacket and placeholder ribbon. There are a number of illustrations by Scott McKowen and an afterword by Arthur Pober. If you're looking for a inexpensive, but nice edition of Gulliver's Travels, this book would be a good choice.
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All I remembered about Gulliver's Travels was the Golden Book or other children's versions of the story that I read when I was still a wee young thing. The real story is much more thought provoking, and the style is quite interesting. Swift writes about his travels to various countries where he encounters people and customs far different from what he is used to. Nevertheless, he writes from an objective viewpoint without discussing what is wrong or right about any of the cultures he visits.
The last place he visits is a country that is populated by extremely intelligent horses, who after hearing Gulliver's explanation of his own country and government, give their impressions of what is wrong with the English government and monarchy. Very tactful, but it makes the points he wants readers to understand. Many similar ideas to Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" come out in the horses' discussions.
A bit long. I thought it might be a bit childish at first. But it was well worth reading from cultural, political and historical points of view.
While other reviews seem focused on Swift's original novel, it would seem to me that anyone reading the reviews for this particular edition would be far more interested in the quality of the contents of the Norton Critical Edition, rather than the text itself. The text, after all, is a seminal classic satire, and even the worst printing and editing would find it very difficult to obscure it. Swift is brilliant, but that is not the focus of this review. Rather, I will be discussing the merits of this particular critical edition of his work.
This Norton Critical Edition is, as all Norton Critical Editions are, split up into three main parts - an authoritative version of the text with footnotes, a selection of works contemporary with the original text, and a selection of critical works dating from the original release down to the present.
The text is presented in its full form, complete with the original frontispiece, illustrations from the original edition, and footnotes where appropriate. The text is reproduced faithfully, and any decisions made by the editor are duly noted in footnotes. In fact, the editor has remained so true to the original text that he has retained the 18th century convention of capitalizing every single noun. This could, conceivably, be off-putting for some modern readers. Yet, for the scholarly audience doubtless intended for this edition, it seems appropriate that such a level of faithfulness be maintained. Indeed, the intended audience seems to color the entire volume, for, if a novice reader completely new to the text were to pick up the novel for the first time in this edition, the reader might find himself occasionally bewildered. The footnotes added by the editor are judicious, but perhaps too few.Read more ›
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