- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (April 26, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0141196645
- ISBN-13: 978-0141196640
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.2 x 8.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 837 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #223,337 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Gulliver's Travels Reprint Edition
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About the Author
Anglo-Irish poet, satirist and clergyman, Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), was born in Dublin to English parents. He embarked on a career as diplomatic secretary and became increasingly involved in politics. He published many satirical works of verse and prose, including 'A Tale of a Tub', 'A Modest Proposal', and 'Gulliver's Travels'. Robert DeMaria, Jr. is Henry Noble MacCracken Professor of English at Vassar College, New York. He has published widely on 17th and 18th century literature.
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GULLIVER'S TRAVELS is a very early novel, first published in 1726 – just seven years after ROBINSON CRUSOE, often cited as the first modern novel. It has no dialogue at all, since it’s in the form of a memoir narrated by Gulliver of his travels, and it can be rather tough sledding to read it. However, listening to it (I mostly listened to it, instead of reading it) makes it much easier to comprehend, especially when it is read/performed as well as this was, by David Hyde Pierce (from “Frasier”). I really enjoyed this classic, a lot more than if I had simply read it.
First, Gulliver is shipwrecked onto the shores of Lilliput, and finds himself tied down by hundreds of tiny ropes. He makes contact with the people native to the island, and is shocked to find them only a few inches tall. He is taken into servitude by the tiny race and learns their language. He soon finds out of another civilization of little people across the small body of water that is a sea to them. They were originally members of the same nation, but they rebelled over a dispute over which end of an egg should be cracked. Political issues lead to plans of Gulliver's execution, but he is informed by a friend of this and moves to the other civilization. Here he repairs a boat of his size that is found in the water and leaves the island, taking a few small animals to use as proof of his journeys.
For his second adventure, Gulliver is stranded on Brobdingnag, and island of giants. Here, even the smallest man is the size of a house. He is discovered by a farming family, and is put on display across the country as a novelty. The family makes its way to the capital and sells Gulliver to the queen. He spends many months as a joke and in severe danger by even the smallest creatures. He is nearly killed by rats and wasps, giving him a true sense of his powerlessness. The king of Brobdingnag inquires with him about the state of the world off the island, and is in tears with laughter. He finds the squabbles of such a small race endearing and cannot take any of it seriously. The king has created a society where free speech is not a right given to the people and finds it absurd to be any other way. Gulliver's stay is interrupted by a bird carrying him off into the ocean, where he finds a ship and gains passage back to England.
Gulliver only stays home for two months before he goes out into the sea once again - and is attacked by pirates. After offending the captain, he is set free into the ocean with only a boat and four days of food. He makes his way to an island and discovers a floating landmass nearby. He hails it and is brought up into the island and meets the king. The people of the island, Laputa, are constantly absorbed in thought, and care only for mathematics and music. Their entire society spurns practicality and suffers for it, houses are poorly made and crops barely grow. Gulliver is sent to a scientific conference, and discovers hundreds of experiments that are all heavily impractical and most are failures. One such presentation hopes to propagate a breed of hairless sheep. He leaves peacefully by travelling to Japan through trade routes.
For his final voyage, Gulliver captains his own ship. That is, until a mutiny left him on the shores of Houyhnhnm. He discovers a race of humanoid savages and a race of intelligent horses. The horses think he is one of the savages, "Yahoos," but are surprised by the civility he displays. He is taken to the leader of their village, and is instructed in their language. To the disbelief of all the horses, "Houyhnhnms", he is as intelligent as they are. Their leader inquires about his world, and is stunned to find that the roles of horses and men are reversed. He is disgusted by the society Gulliver reveals. The society of the Houyhnhnms is much friendlier, but less personal. They do what needs to be done to survive, and don't nurture hate nor encourage violence. Gulliver's eyes are opened by the Houyhnhnms, and finds himself progressively more disgusted by humanity. It slowly dawns on Gulliver that the repulsive Yahoos are actually humans who arrived on the island far earlier. He falls in love with the society of the Houyhnhnms and no longer wishes to leave the island. He is sadly forced off of the island and tries to live in seclusion on a nearby one. He is discovered by sailors and taken aboard against his will. The captain is a very kind and patient man and cares for Gulliver despite his repulsion.
When he arrives home he is disgusted by his own family and can't stand their presence for over a year, instead conversing with a pair of horses he purchased. He ends with a statement about how these islands he visited are technically property of England but that he sees no advantage to colonizing any of them. He desires to protect the Houyhnhnms most of all, as their noble society is something he believes we should all strive for.
While I found the book fairly interesting at times, the language used was hard to follow, and it often went off onto rants that were both uninteresting and irrelevant. However, I do know that this book was intended to be a satire, and the boredom experienced may be an intentional act by Swift. I found many of the ways these societies operated purely ridiculous and totally unsustainable, but perhaps this was also intentional. I would assume that this was done to make me think about WHY I found them ridiculous, and if it was the product of close mindedness or fact. After looking into the story more when writing this, I found many small hints that indicate the satirical tone of the book.
While the first reading was a little grueling, the review and discovery of small hints was very enjoyable. I would recommend this book to anyone with the perseverance to get through the dry parts, as the rest of it is truly interesting.