am 26. März 2000
Gulliver's Travels by Michael West "That a weak diseased body, a meagre countenance, and sallow complexion are the true marks of noble blood; and a healthy robust appearance is so disgraceful quality in a man of quality, that the world concludes his father to be a groom, or a coachman." This quotation is an excellent example of how much Swift loathed the nobility and monarchies, which existed during his life. Throughout the book he uses parodies, analogies, or satire to demonstrate his beliefs making for a wonderful novel that is difficult to stop reading. Gulliver's Travels is without a doubt a book not intended to be a children's story, but since Swift wrote the story with a child-like plot, people miss Swift's intent to satirize the time in which he lived. Only once one reads this novel as an adult does one realize the scornful satire on man. The unfortunate protagonist of the story is named Gulliver whom goes on four adventures to uncharted and mystical lands. The first story starts out in a place called Lilliput, a country of people one-twelfth the size of Gulliver. These people resemble the British, and his enemies there are his enemies in real life. Also, there is an empire called Blefuscu that is the French, the mortal enemies of the British. One of the best parts of this book is his analogy to the history of religious controversy in England that made Catholicism illegal. This is shown with the Big Endian and Little Endian controversy of which a former emperor (Henry VIII) cut his finger while cutting an egg on the big end, therefore making cutting the big end of the egg illegal. Part one is filed with classic satire and is immensely entertaining to read, all the while Swift added pieces that were anti-nobility. In part two, one of the major themes is avarice, and people are willing to become affluent at the expense of someone else's life. Swift implies that Gulliver is shown around as if he were part of a freak show. This is because the giants at Brobdingnag are twelve times the size of Gulliver, enabling Swift to continue the child-like appearance of the book. After the monarchs buy him, he tells them of England and the king is horrified by the boorish behavior of Europeans, and especially the nobility constantly promoting killing to further their own ends. Evidently, Swift is insulting the vulgar nature of man in seventeenth century Europe. Part three is basically a general insult to Europeans, whom at this time were only concerned with music and math. He was attempting to point out the blindness of Europe, and to show them there are other interesting things in life. When there was a mathematical mistake in the making of his clothes by the Laputians, this may have been aimed at Newton, because Swift was severely disenchanted with Newton for making a positive report on William Wood's coinage in Ireland of halfpence. (The halfpence had been constructed of poor quality copper). Obviously, Swift maintains the hilarious, vitriolic satire making the novel an instant classic. Lastly, Swift writes about the Houyhnhnms, horses, which act as people do, but are far superior. Here he insults humanity in general through the superior Houyhnhnms, calling Yahoos (humans) boorish, vile, despicable, and cruel, especially lawyers. Part four is probably the most caustic attack upon humans and the nobility, therefore making it the most entertaining piece of the book. However, the book throughout is entertaining and will keep anyone's attention, regardless if they see through the satire or not. Even though Gulliver's Travels is a magnificent novel, it can be hard to read, due to Swift having used his colossal vocabulary to a maximum. However, Swift also has context clues in the sentences allowing the reader to understand what he means some of the time, but on occasion a dictionary is incredibly useful. For example, Gulliver stated, "I lay in a profound sleep, by the force of that soporiferous medicine infused into my liquor." The words, "into my liquor," help the reader understand infused means to pour into. On the plus side, reading the novel enhanced my vocabulary astronomically with words such as declivity, draught, intrepidity, victuals, infused, and many more. Another potential problem is that Swift's satire can be obscure, and the audience may not understand what the characters are truly speaking about. However, those of us who know the history of Great Britain unequivocally will have no problem reading the novel. Fortunately, to counteract this difficulty, most copies of Gulliver's Travels have notes on specific parts of the novel because the publishers felt obliged to make it more readable. Another realistic problem is the reader may become infuriated by the repeated insults on human nature. Although Swift was correct, some people might stop reading, and this would be a disastrous mistake. One must realize that he is attempting to help civilization through caustic satire, because the whole point of satire is to expose, attack, or deride vices. If the reader can get past these three problems, it will be clear sailing, and the reading will be enjoyable and insightful. Jonathan Swift was remarkable in his ability to see the misgivings of human nature and offer insights on how to correct these definitive problems. Swift also made the novel amazingly readable and enthusiastically interesting to read. Plus, while keeping the reader enthused, he broadened the horizons of the reader's vocabulary. That is important not only for everyday life, but for national exams also. While Swift gave an important message that there are things wrong with the world in the eighteenth century, these problems still exist today. He informs the reader that war is evil and only brings about the deaths of many of our own kind for very few, if any important reasons. Also, he explained the malicious, avarice type nature of yahoos (humans) which inevitably bring about the demise of great civilizations. Finally, a problem that is very rare today, is the existence of monarchies. An absolute monarchy will have a propensity to be corrupt bringing evil and harm to all. Everything he says is true, and Swift deserves the utmost respect for writing this wonderful novel. Anyone who reads this book will surely be amazed at Swift's insight, and it should be required reading for years to come.