Gulliver’s Travels is a satiric story written by Jonathan Swift in the first half of the 18th century. It is a unique collection of traveler’s tales that appeals to both adults and children due to the presence of hidden meaning that allows the readers to see one and the same situation from different perspectives. In this paper, I will discuss Gulliver’s inner child. I will focus on the connection between childhood and adulthood that can be observed when paying attention to the interactions with tiny people in Lilliput and giants in Brobdingnag. I will try to prove that there are both positive and negative sides in these states, but for the protagonist to feel that he is in his element, Gulliver should accept a child and an adult in him.
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From Lilliput to Brobdingnag
Gulliver starts his voyage with the island country of Lilliput. Being the only giant there, he tends to feel rather powerful and independent regardless of the fact that he is a guest who is commonly expected to comply with the owner’s rules and wishes. Still, his supremacy in size makes the protagonist treat the population as if they were little children regardless of their age. In some cases, he finds them nice and funny, in others, believes to be somehow naughty and sketchy. But in general, Gulliver is satisfied with his position, as he is the one who seems to be at a higher rank than others. I believe that is why he is so affected by the situation that happens later. Having spent a little time at home, the protagonist enters a new world that is opposite to Lilliput. In Brobdingnag, he is the one to be tiny and toy-like. Being an adult, Gulliver turns out unready to be even smaller than a toddler. This time, his size makes him rather vulnerable and dependent so that the man cannot resist childish impulses.
Adult or Child
When entering a family with loving children, Gulliver realizes that being a living doll is not that bad. Glumdalclitch cares about him and allows the man to feel protected and important to someone. He does not need to think of serious things and can just live with his “owners”. However, being in the hands of other giants, the protagonist realizes that he cannot continue living like that:
The mother, out of pure indulgence, took me up and put me towards the child, who presently seized me by the middle, and got my head into his mouth, where I roared so loud that the urchin was frightened, and let me drop, and I should infallibly have broken my neck if the mother had not held her apron under me (Swift 108).
Gulliver is not able to act like an adult in a world where everything can suddenly turn out to be dangerous. As a child, he seeks protection but cannot find it so that the lack of power urges him to make well-considered decisions. For example, he ensures that a father pardons his son who mistreated Gulliver “being afraid the boy might owe me spite, and well remembering how mischievous all children among us naturally are to sparrows, rabbits, young kittens, and puppy dogs” (Swift 107).
Losing his dignity, when being treated not like he is used to, Gulliver starts recollecting his own behavior in Lilliput. The man realizes that being bigger and more powerful, he made some mistakes. Now, in Brobdingnag, he is as vulnerable as an infant: “He took me up… and held me as a nurse does a child she is going to suckle” (Swift 150). The protagonist feels like a child who cannot resist adults. He is disgusted by the maids of honor who “often invited Glumdalclitch… on purpose to have the pleasure of seeing and touching me” (Swift 144). Thus, the man seems to be ready to accept his childish impulses when he is well-treated and loved, but such ideas vanish as he faces another side of this world.
Childish Impulses and Adulthood
Personally, I believe that putting the protagonist in various conditions, Swift wants to show the readers that a person cannot have only one side, which is good or bad, as well as the word, cannot treat one in the same way regardless of the situation. The reality is that opposite things coexist. They complement one another, providing people with the opportunity to find balance. After being in Brobdingnag, Gulliver is not willing to return to Lilliput, where he was above everyone. The man wants to recover his liberty through coming home: “I slept about two hours, and dreamt I was at home with my wife and children” (Swift 110). I strongly believe that Swift encourages the readers not to reject their childish impulses but to find the golden mean, which would give them an opportunity to see the world in new colors. Having something from a child and something from an adult, one can make well-grounded decisions that will benefit diverse populations. Considering the fact that the story was written to reveal English reality, such an explanation seems to be the most reasonable to me.
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Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver’s Travels. n.d. Web.