Gulliver's Travels Summary. Gulliver's Travels, or Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships is a 1726 prose satire by the Anglo-Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift, satirising both human nature and the "travellers' tales" literary subgenre.
It is Swift's best known full-length work, and a classic of English literature. Swift claimed that he wrote Gulliver's Travels "to vex the world rather than divert it". The book was an immediate success. The English dramatist John Gay remarked, "It is universally read, from the cabinet council to the nursery." In 2015, Robert McCrum released his selection list of the 100 best novels of all time, where he called Gulliver's Travels "a satirical masterpiece".
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Gulliver's Travels Summary
Book I: When the ship Gulliver is traveling on is destroyed in a storm, Gulliver ends up on the island of Lilliput, where he awakes to find that he has been captured by Lilliputians, very small people — approximately six inches in height. Gulliver is treated with compassion and concern. In turn, he helps them solve some of their problems, especially their conflict with their enemy, Blefuscu, an island across the bay from them. Gulliver falls from favor, however, because he refuses to support the Emperor's desire to enslave the Blefuscudians and because he "makes water" to put out a palace fire. Gulliver flees to Blefuscu, where he converts a large war ship to his own use and sets sail from Blefuscu eventually to be rescued at sea by an English merchant ship and returned to his home in England.
Book II: As he travels as a ship's surgeon, Gulliver and a small crew are sent to find water on an island. Instead they encounter a land of giants. As the crew flees, Gulliver is left behind and captured. Gulliver's captor, a farmer, takes him to the farmer's home where Gulliver is treated kindly, but, of course, curiously. The farmer assigns his daughter, Glumdalclitch, to be Gulliver's keeper, and she cares for Gulliver with great compassion. The farmer takes Gulliver on tour across the countryside, displaying him to onlookers. Eventually, the farmer sells Gulliver to the Queen. At court, Gulliver meets the King, and the two spend many sessions discussing the customs and behaviors of Gulliver's country. In many cases, the King is shocked and chagrined by the selfishness and pettiness that he hears Gulliver describe. Gulliver, on the other hand, defends England.
One day, on the beach, as Gulliver looks longingly at the sea from his box (portable room), he is snatched up by an eagle and eventually dropped into the sea. A passing ship spots the floating chest and rescues Gulliver, eventually returning him to England and his family.
Book III: Gulliver is on a ship bound for the Levant. After arriving, Gulliver is assigned captain of a sloop to visit nearby islands and establish trade. On this trip, pirates attack the sloop and place Gulliver in a small boat to fend for himself. While drifting at sea, Gulliver discovers a Flying Island. While on the Flying Island, called Laputa, Gulliver meets several inhabitants, including the King. All are preoccupied with things associated with mathematics and music. In addition, astronomers use the laws of magnetism to move the island up, down, forward, backward, and sideways, thus controlling the island's movements in relation to the island below (Balnibarbi). While in this land, Gulliver visits Balnibarbi, the island of Glubbdubdrib, and Luggnagg. Gulliver finally arrives in Japan where he meets the Japanese emperor. From there, he goes to Amsterdam and eventually home to England.
Book IV: While Gulliver is captain of a merchant ship bound for Barbados and the Leeward Islands, several of his crew become ill and die on the voyage. Gulliver hires several replacement sailors in Barbados. These replacements turn out to be pirates who convince the other crew members to mutiny. As a result, Gulliver is deposited on a "strand" (an island) to fend for himself. Almost immediately, he is discovered by a herd of ugly, despicable human-like creatures who are called, he later learns, Yahoos. They attack him by climbing trees and defecating on him. He is saved from this disgrace by the appearance of a horse, identified, he later learns, by the name Houyhnhnm. The grey horse (a Houyhnhnm) takes Gulliver to his home, where he is introduced to the grey's mare (wife), a colt and a foal (children), and a sorrel nag (the servant). Gulliver also sees that the Yahoos are kept in pens away from the house. It becomes immediately clear that, except for Gulliver's clothing, he and the Yahoos are the same animal. From this point on, Gulliver and his master (the grey) begin a series of discussions about the evolution of Yahoos, about topics, concepts, and behaviors related to the Yahoo society, which Gulliver represents, and about the society of the Houyhnhnms.
Despite his favored treatment in the grey steed's home, the kingdom's Assembly determines that Gulliver is a Yahoo and must either live with the uncivilized Yahoos or return to his own world. With great sadness, Gulliver takes his leave of the Houyhnhnms. He builds a canoe and sails to a nearby island where he is eventually found hiding by a crew from a Portuguese ship. The ship's captain returns Gulliver to Lisbon, where he lives in the captain's home. Gulliver is so repelled by the sight and smell of these "civilized Yahoos" that he can't stand to be around them. Eventually, however, Gulliver agrees to return to his family in England. Upon his arrival, he is repelled by his Yahoo family, so he buys two horses and spends most of his days caring for and conversing with the horses in the stable in order to be as far away from his Yahoo family as possible.
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Gulliver's Travels Themes
Perspective and Relativity: The entire novel hinges on the shifting perspectives Gulliver encounters in each land. Being shrunk to Lilliputian size or towering over Brobdingnagians forces him to confront the arbitrary nature of human values and societal norms. This theme challenges readers to consider their own biases and recognize the relativity of truth and knowledge based on one's point of view.
Satire of Human Nature: Swift uses grotesque exaggeration and biting wit to expose the pettiness, greed, and folly of humanity. Gulliver encounters societies obsessed with trivial matters like political factions in Lilliput, the pursuit of impractical knowledge in Laputa, and the enslavement of reason by emotion in Houyhnhnms. This satire compels readers to reflect on their own flaws and the potential dangers of unchecked human tendencies.
Power and Politics: The novel tackles the abuse of power in various forms, from the petty squabbles of Lilliputian factions to the manipulative tactics of Laputian philosophers. Through Gulliver's experiences, Swift criticizes the corruption and hypocrisy inherent in many political systems, prompting readers to question the nature of authority and its potential for misuse.
Reason vs. Emotion: Throughout the novel, Gulliver grapples with the tension between reason and emotion. The Houyhnhnms represent pure rationality, while the Yahoos embody uncontrolled passions. This creates a complex debate about the balance needed for a fulfilling life, forcing readers to consider the merits and downsides of both reason and emotion.
Travel and Exploration: The act of travel itself serves as a powerful metaphor for the journey of self-discovery. Gulliver's encounters with diverse cultures and perspectives challenge his preconceived notions and broaden his understanding of the world. This theme resonates with readers who find value in travel and exploration as a means of personal growth.
Truth and Deception: The question of truthfulness is a recurring motif in the novel. Gulliver often faces suspicion and doubt from the societies he visits, while simultaneously questioning the veracity of their claims. This theme emphasizes the subjectivity of truth and the difficulty of navigating a world filled with potential deception.
Questions and Answers about Gulliver's Travels Plot
What is a short summary of Gulliver's Travels? Gulliver's Travel's, written by Jonathan Swift, recounts in first-person narrative the vibrant adventures of Lemuel Gulliver, a surgeon who works on ships and time after time encounters himself stranded in new lands, a victim of shipwreck, piracy, and mutiny.
What is the main idea of Gulliver's Travels? Swift's main purpose in Gulliver's Travels was to illustrate how the English government and society needed a reformation. As an Irish patriot and a former admirer of the English government and life, Swift now sees England and all its glory in a very different way.
What is the main character's problem in Gulliver's Travels? In each story, Gulliver experiences different conflicts. In the first, he has to make a dubious peace with the Lilliputians. In the second, the actions of the Brobdingnagians entrap him, and they treat him as a curiosity.
What kind of character is Gulliver? Gulliver. The narrator and protagonist of the story. Although Lemuel Gulliver's vivid and detailed style of narration makes it clear that he is intelligent and well educated, his perceptions are naïve and gullible.
How Gulliver's Travels is a satire? Swift uses satire to show human stupidity in "Gulliver's Travels." Folly is defined as a lack of common sense. Many of the novel's characters lack the knowledge and aptitude to perceive reality, as well as the ability to reason logically, as do actual humans.
What is the conclusion of Gulliver's Travel? At last it is decided that Gulliver must leave the Houyhnhnms. Gulliver then returns to England, so disgusted with humanity that he avoids his family and buys horses and converses with them instead.
What does Gulliver represent in Gulliver's Travels? In Book IV, Gulliver represents the middle ground between pure reason (as embodied by the Houyhnhnms) and pure animalism (as embodied by the depraved Yahoos), yet Gulliver's pride refuses to allow him to recognize the Yahoo aspects in himself.
What is the best part of Gulliver Travels? Part I, entitled "A Voyage to Lilliput," is the most famous section of Gulliver's Travels. Lured by the prospect of adventure and easy money, Lemuel Gulliver signs up as a "surgeon," or ship's doctor, for a voyage through the East Indies in Asia.
Why Gulliver is your favorite character? It is more important what you have in your heart and not how you look. And that is why Gulliver was my favourite character in the book. He was sincere, helping, not double faced, funny. Life would be more interesting for everyone if there were more people like him in the world.