The novel ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ was written in Europe in the early 16th century. It was published in 1726. The novel was written by Jonathan Swift. He was a writer of Anglo-Irish origin. Initially, the title of the book was ‘Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World in Four Parts by Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships’. However, it was later amended to ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ in 1735 (Swift and Turner 142). The novel remains to be one of the most successful texts in English literature. The fact that it rose to fame as soon as it was published underscores this assertion. Since its publication, the book has been in continuous print all over the world. It is made up of four different stories characterised by significant literature on exploration. The book also contains some elements of fantasy and critique.
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In this paper, the author will analyse the aspects mentioned above in the novel. The aim is to provide the reader with a critical review of two sections of the text. The evaluation will bring onboard research obtained from other sources to provide more information on the writer and the history of the world. The author of this paper will also pose questions about the different aspects of the two books that seem to lack clarity. Also, recommendations on how the material should be taught are provided.
An Analysis of Gulliver’s Travels Book 3 & 4
Gulliver’s Travels Book 3
In book 3 of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, the author covers the issue of the literature of exploration. In this text, the reader can see how ship captains and their crew set out to travel across the world in search of information and resources. Water was the main form of transportation at the time. As a result, people built ships to access other parts of the world (Swift and Turner 142). It is also noted that most of the ship captains at the time were also merchants. They dealt with a wide range of commodities. They travelled long distances by sea in search of new trading opportunities. As a result of the profits they accrued through the business transactions, they earned respect from their peers and other members of the society. In addition to the captain, members of the crew consisted of other specialists. However, the captain was the one in charge of the ship at sea. In the book, the reader is informed that Gulliver had served as a surgeon in Captain William Robinson’s ship. He had played a major role in enhancing the success of the crew at sea. He achieved this by treating them in case any medical issues arose.
An analysis of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ book 3 also brings to the attention of the reader the various challenges faced by ship crews as they set out to explore the world. To begin with, they had to endure separation from their families for long durations of time. For example, Gulliver is approached by the ship captain less than ten days after he had returned home from his previous mission at sea. He had barely had time to spend with his family (Swift and Turner 211). He has to leave his wife and children once again. The reason is that Captain William Robinson has another assignment lined up for him. Life at sea is not very easy. In ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ book 3, the author indicates that the ship had to make several stopovers to allow the crew members time for refreshments. The vessel takes close to eight months to arrive at Fort St. George. By the time of arrival, most of the ship’s crew were sick. The captain had no option but to give them enough time to rest and regain their health before setting out to sea once more.
The crew was also at risk of constant attacks from pirates. The criminals were attracted to the merchandise carried by the ships. At the time, pirates posed the greatest threat to exploration activities around the world. On arriving at Tonquin, the ship captain realises that the goods that they had travelled to fetch were not ready. It is also apparent that they would not be ready in the next few months. As a result, he resolves to load the ship with other merchandise and send it back. Gulliver is put in charge of the consignment. On their way back home, the crew experiences a violent storm, which takes them off the original course. The ship is chased by two pirate vessels that later overtakes it. The criminals come on board Gulliver’s ship. The furious pirates contemplate throwing Gulliver and the rest of his crew into the sea. However, Gulliver is lucky as his life is spared. He is set adrift on a tiny canoe. He loses the sloop and the crew that had been assigned to him by his captain. The merchandise, as well as the vessel, is taken away by the pirates (Swift 213).
Some element of fantasy is also evident in ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ book 3. From example, after Gulliver is set free by the pirates, he heads for some rocky islands near India. However, most of these islands are not inhabited. As a result, he moves from one to the other in search of help (Swift and Turner 216). He is afraid that his food reserves would dry up before he can access any help. As such, he tries to conserve the remaining food by taking as little as possible. The man is later saved by people from ‘the flying island’. The island, also known as Laputa, is a kingdom that is devoted to the development of various forms of knowledge. The islanders are experts in mathematics, art, and music. However, the kingdom has not yet found a practical use for all these skills. Astronomers in this mass of land manipulate the laws of magnetism to keep their island afloat. They also can steer it in all directions. The inhabitants can launch air attacks on rebellious cities by throwing pieces of rocks towards them (Swift 56). Here, the reader can identify fantasy given that it is unlikely to have a flying island.
Swift’s penchant for fantasy can be attributed to his upbringing. His family had vast literary connections. To begin with, he was related to John Dryden. Francis Godwin is relative to the author. He is the writer of ‘The Man in the Moone’. The piece is believed to be one of the greatest inspirations behind Swift’s ‘Gulliver’s Travels’.
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An element of criticism is also discernible in ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ book 3. Gulliver continues with his exploration activities even after arriving at Laputa. He heads for Balnibarbi. The region is under Laputa. During his explorations, he witnesses the ruins that Laputa has created in the other cities. The ruins are brought about by the kingdom’s scientific experiments. He is of the view that the kingdom of Laputa does not use science for practical purposes. He satirises the situation by stating that the kingdom is just but a bureaucracy made of the royal society in blind pursuit of scientific accomplishments. He also criticises the research conducted by the Laputa society (Swift 147). He is particularly annoyed by the preposterous scheme put in place by the kingdom to extract sunbeams from cucumbers. Also, the scientists sought ways to soften marbles and use them in pillows. According to Gulliver, the experiments were just a waste of resources (Swift 145).
It is unclear how some of the processes and activities mentioned in the book take place. For instance, one is left wondering why the inhabitants of Laputa Kingdom go to such lengths to extract sunbeams using cucumbers. The mystery deepens when one realises that the kingdom is already enjoying natural sunlight. It is also unclear how Laputa came to be a flying island (Swift 142). One is left wondering whether or not the reason is it that the inhabitants of the other islands lacked the capabilities possessed by their floating neighbours.
Critics hold that this book 3 is best suited for young learners. It should be taught to children interested in literature. The reason behind this is that most of the works in it are mainly fiction. Also, Swift uses a lot of fantasy in his writing. The traits make this an ideal text for young readers. At the end of the book, Gulliver returns home to his wife and children (Swift 145). He expresses no optimism to engage in exploration activities in the future.
‘Gulliver’s Travels’ Book 4
Book 4 of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ is also a good source of exploration literature. Despite his previous resolution never to return to sea in the future, Gulliver changes his mind in book 4. He continues with exploration undertakings. He has a passion for his job at sea. He leaves his family one more time even after been away from them for years. However, his return to the sea this time is not as a surgeon. His ambitions have grown (Swift 189). He views his previous job as the surgeon for the ship’s crew as boring. He seeks to start a new career as the captain. He has evolved to a merchant. It is clear to the readers that the exploration work has attractive returns. It also leads to honour. Being the captain of a ship is more respectable compared to being a member of the crew. Gulliver sets out for the islands of Barbados and Leeward. He is not sure of the duration he will take at sea.
Once again, Gulliver and his crew are not lucky. Most of his entourage falls ill and eventually die. To run the ship successfully, he has to hire more men as sailors. On arriving at Barbados, he hires several men to replace his lost crew. He is in a foreign land. As such, he is not in a position to establish the true nature of his new members of the crew. After setting sail towards Leeward Island, his new crew turns out to be pirates. They incite his original entourage to a mutiny. Soon, he is deposed from his position as the captain of the ship (Swift 193). He is locked away as they contemplate what to do with him. Finally, the ship arrives in a deserted piece of land where he is left to fend for himself. Once more, Gulliver is robbed of a ship under his command.
By highlighting this incidence, Swift tries to sensitise readers on the true nature of sea travel at the time. During the 17th century, many sea travellers and ship crew died after falling sick. There were minimal scientific advancements in the field of medicine. Individuals who were lucky to survive were faced by another danger of piracy (Swift and Turner 246). The persons on board the ships were either left on deserted islands or taken away and sold to slavery. Human beings were also considered to be a commodity of trade. In this case, many of those who were unlucky to be attacked by pirates barely made it back home. The lucky ones who did spend many months or even years before been rescued and taken back to their original homes.
Soon after he had been abandoned by his crew in the island, Gulliver comes upon the Yahoos. They are a ‘herd’ of despicable and ugly looking creatures resembling human beings. Soon, they launched an attack by defecating on him from treetops (Swift and Turner 253). A grey horse, Houyhnhnm, comes to his rescue. He takes him home to his wife. They live together with a colt and a foal, who are their children. The traveller later realises that the Yahoos lead a different life. They are held away from the main house.
It also becomes apparent to Gulliver that he and the Yahoos are the same except for his clothing. Here, the author uses satire to describe how man evolved. He describes humans as primitive creatures with an animal for a master. The narrative given by the author is similar to that of the human evolution theory. In the past, men resembled apes. They used to reside on trees. They were also primitive and had not yet been civilised (Swift 197). Swift treats the horse and his family as the civilised lot. As a result of his civilised nature, the horse offers Gulliver preferential treatment. However, the kingdom’s assembly is not pleased with his intrusion. They pass a judgement that he should either live among the Yahoos or return to his homeland. Gulliver is sad to leave the Houyhnhnms and head back home. He builds himself a canoe, which he uses to sail to a nearby island. A Portuguese vessel helps him out. The captain takes him back home to England.
Like in book 3, there are several elements of fantasy in ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ book 4. It is a fantasy how a man can be able to relate well and communicate better with an animal than his fellow human beings (Swift 158). Gulliver is rescued by a grey horse as he is being attacked by his fellow Yahoos. He also carries on a conversation with the horse. The move is strange considering that he is not in a position to relate with his fellow men. On his return home, Gulliver cannot stand the company of his family. He opts to buy two horses, which he takes care of for the rest of his life.
Gulliver criticises the violent nature of his fellow men. When he arrives at the Houyhnhnm Kingdom, he is attacked by Yahoos who are human-like creatures. They got on top of trees and started pestering him. They defecate on him. He considered them to be uncivilised. He is rescued by a horse that he can easily engage with as a result of his civilised nature. When he goes back home, he continues to be agitated by what he believes to be human nature, including that of his family (Swift and Turner 223). Like book 3, this text is best suited for young readers. It is full of fiction and is also easy to comprehend.
The novel ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ consists of four separate books. The main character in the story is Gulliver. He travels to different remote parts of the world for various purposes. In book three, he travels in a ship as the crew’s surgeon. In book four, he abandons his career as a surgeon and becomes a captain of his merchant ship. In both occasions, he is attacked by pirates. However, he is always lucky to return to his family. In both books, the reader can identify elements of fantasy and criticism. Swift’s work is best suited for young readers. The main reason behind this is that it is full of fiction.
Swift, Jonathan, and Paul Turner. Gulliver’s Travels, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. Print.
Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver’s Travels into Several Remote Regions of the World, Waiheke Island: Floating, 2008. Print.