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Forum nameReading Challenges, 2010
Topic subject9. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
Topic URLhttp://www.fmwriters.com/community/dc/dcboard.php?az=show_topic&forum=505&topic_id=6&mesg_id=293
293, 9. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
Posted by alissaameth, Fri Feb-05-10 09:55 PM
Fiction, 310 pages.

I think this might be one of the strangest books I've ever read. I'd always heard of Gulliver's Travels, but I never really knew what kind of a novel it was. I knew that it was about a traveler who discovered new places and new creatures, but I didn't realize that it has such a... such an opinionated view, or agenda. That's it! I didn't realize that it was a story written with an agenda that had a lot to do with Swift's personal views and England at the time. I don't know all that much about the time period (it was published in 1726), but the notes in the back of my edition helped me out.

I didn't really enjoy reading this, and I'm trying to figure out why. I enjoy all the creative descriptions and events that Swift comes up with that I never would've thought of. I also enjoyed reading the many conversations about topics such as proper education, the usefulness (or uselessness) of science, government, the law and war in society. I was interested in trying to tease out what statements Swift was trying to make. I was not interested in Gulliver himself--but I don't think the point of the novel is to make the reader like him, it's to make the reader think about the things he says and the things he learns from his experiences and encounters.

Have you ever felt like a book was good but you just weren't in the mood for it? I think that's why I didn't enjoy reading this much. It is just so bizarre, and I don't think I was in the mood for that. For instance, the long passages where Gulliver explains to us how he manages his bodily functions when he's away from toilets (well, not toilets, but whatever the civilized English people used in that time). Or the passages where he describes being put on a giant woman's nipple. These are just not pictures I feel like getting in my head from my reading, right now. Still, on the whole, I think it is a good book--especially if you're reading to analyze an argument.

The book is divided into four parts, with each part detailing a voyage that takes him to a strange, new place. (He doesn't spend much time at home!) Invariably, something happens to his ship and he ends up alone in a new land, where he's discovered by the natives. He spends a lot of time learning about the natives' society and telling them about his own. When the time comes for him to leave and go back home, he lives for a while as if he were one of the creatures he just met. (E.g. after he comes home from visiting the little people, he keeps looking down as if the people around him are tiny. When he comes home from the horse-like people, he only talks to horses.)

The book is very satirical, although some parts seem sincere. (Sometimes I can't tell which is which.) My favorite parts were the conversations between Gulliver and the rulers he met. Typically, he would tell them about England in all it's glory (being very ironic--i.e. describing how wonderful soldiers are for being willing to kill those who haven't wronged them personally), and they would point out all its flaws, from their points of view. I like the back-and-forth of ideas.