Jonathan Swift – Gulliver’s Travels

Jonathan Swift – Gulliver’s Travels

The classic satire holds up well. In the first of four parts, Gulliver visits the Lilliputians. Besides the obvious lessons about cultural differences, there is also some amusing ribaldry, as when Gulliver gets into legal trouble for putting out a Lilliputian fire by urinating on it, and flooding the tiny town as a result.

In part two he sees the opposite side of the coin with the Brobdingnagians, a race of giants, though mercifully minus the peeing. In part three he bounces around among several different nations, giving Swift the opportunity to poke fun at philosophers and other elites, and for some reason Japan, possibly because it is an actual place. Part four gives us the word “yahoo,” which gives Swift ample opportunity to make fun of ordinary people’s prejudices and habits. When Gulliver is briefly home between adventures, the casual dismissiveness with which he treats his wife and children is an early example of shock value humor. Gulliver barely acknowledges their existence beyond conceiving a new child on each return. Nobody is spared, and nobody is a saint, which is likely the source of Swift’s enduring appeal.

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