“Gulliver’s Travels” consists of four parts, each of which is about a different voyage to another strange place. The original 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.”.
This work is a famous satire of the contemporary England and its institutions. In it Jonathan Swift uses an ancient satirical device: the imaginary voyage.
Lemuel Gulliver, the narrator, is a surgeon in a ship. He received a good education. He is in fact revealed as a good example of humanity. His personality is quite easy for the reader to identify with.
In the first voyage he is shipwrecked. Swimming, he comes to the empire of Lilliput, where he is a giant among diminutive people. He is at first quite amused by what he confronts there: the tiny people with their little civilization. But later it appears that they are vengeful, cruel, treacherous, ambitious, and malicious.
The second voyage is to Brobdingnag. This is the country of the giants, each of whom is ten times larger than a European. It seems that with this country Swift aimed at portraying the ideal country in his mind; therefore, Brobdingnag is a kind of utopia. It is ruled by a decent prince who is the embodiment of moral and political wisdom. Gulliver’s discussions with this prince contain clever satires of the contemporary British politics and institutions.
In his third voyage Gulliver is in Laputa, the flying island. This part is a clear allegory for the political life in England under the administration of the Whig minister Robert Walpole.
The fourth part takes place in the country of the Houyhnhnms (hwin-ims). Houynhnhms are a race of horses. These horses live by reason. Yahoos, who are their slaves, are mere creatures of appetite and passion. Their bodies look like human shapes but they have no sign of reason.
Gulliver’s travels appealed to everyone, and it still does. It was an interesting story for children, simple enough for them, and a challenging satire for adults, complicated enough to leave them in confusion. In the last chapter of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ Gulliver says that he has become incapable of telling lies. What is strange about this is the oath he swears in narrating that is in fact a quotation from Sinon, through whose lies the Trojans were persuaded to accept the Trojan horse. Thus, he forces the reader to keep alert, not to be engaged with the surface , but to look for the depths. However, in the end the reader reaches no clear conclusions but left with some fundemental questions like what a human being is, whether we are reasonable beings. In fact this is what Swift aims at: to make the reader think.