The Relevance of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels
Having read Jonathan Swift’s novel, Gulliver’s Travels, in high school, I found it an exciting task to reread this great work from a slightly older, more experienced outlook. I was pleasantly surprised to find that time had greatly changed the way I viewed this novel. Upon first reading the novel I feel that I viewed the book in a more childlike matter, scoffing at his ideas of world politics and not understanding much of his satire. I was told in my high school class that Swift wrote Gulliver’s Travels as a satire of English politics. Back then, I assumed that he himself must have been an Englishman and felt the need to mock the politics of his country. Four years later, I find out that Swift was in fact an Irishman, which entirely changed the meaning of the satire for me. It is one thing when a person writes a satire about the politics of one’s own country, as in the book, Primary Colors, which made fun of the Clinton establishment in the White House. However, in my opinion, it is of greater insult when it comes from an outsider, a foreigner, who may have a deeper reason for insulting the English nation, and I feel that in this case it might be because of the long felt oppression of Ireland by England.
Coming into English 366, I honestly never knew very much about the oppression of Ireland from England. I knew that there had always been trouble between the two countries, but I never knew of the strong feelings that have been expressed about England in many Irish works of literature. After reading works from this course I began to see Swift’s emphasis on politics, his use of gross humor and his ideas of fitting into society in both the excerpt found in Colm Toibin’s anthology, The Penguin Book of Irish Literature, and the original work of Gulliver’s Travels in its entirety. In the following discussion, I will examine the first idea by emphasizing examples from the excerpt of Toibin’s anthology and following up these ideas using the rest of Gulliver’s Travels. The aforementioned excerpt is taken from the first section of Swift’s novel discussing the people of Lilliput, which I’d advise the members of the class to read to gain a small insight into Swift’s satirical style. Since reading for leisure is a lost art on most college campuses, I will try to bring insights of Swift’s entire work in Gulliver’s Travels. Even after reading this discussion, I hope that members of the class will someday read the entirety of the novel for themselves. They may find that their ideas from the novel differ greatly from my own, and maybe someday upon reading Gulliver’s Travels again, I, too, may find that my ideas have changed. My ideas from the novel are solely my opinions and I suggest that the reader may
take them as such.
Part one of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, presented in Toibin’s anthology, is about the author’s voyage to Lilliput. The author of the work is Lemuel...