In 1726, the first part of Jonathan Swift’s work Gulliver’s Travels appeared in print. The book did not receive instant success and it was another ten years before the text would be released in it’s entirety. Swift would die in an insane asylum of what would be seen as a result of his indignation and outrage towards society that comes across in his work. As time passed Gulliver’s Travels became an important work of political satire that reflected issues in 1700 European society that would lead to things like the American Revolution and the eventual over throw of several monarchies. The book aims to show alternatives to the style of government and expose evils of Europe in the 16th century. Swift uses the fictional character Lemuel Gulliver to go on a series of travels that lead him to reflect on the societies he encounters as well as his own. Gulliver’s Travels changes the concept of what we starve for in a perfect society and challenges the idea of what we would look for in a utopian society and ultimately leads us to the conclusion that dystopia is the only obtainable utopia. Weather its through his amazing power and influence he possess while with the vain and prideful Lilliputians or suffering through the many humiliations at the hands of the Brobdingnangians Gulliver serves as our vehicle and moral compass as we examine different worlds foreign to our own. The transformation of Gulliver himself serves as our model of what we are to take away from this journey and how we can become more of the change we want to see in our world. This is no more apparent then in Gulliver’s forced return from the world he comes to love of the Houynhnm’s. The change in Gulliver from a content family man to the unhappy exile from a foreign land demonstrates the potential dystopia that can come from being a traveler.
The central theme of travel to the book play’s a vital role in helping the read come to conclusions that are to be made about society. In the world of 1700 even more so then today one had only their personal experiences to draw upon. While reading is mentioned several times as a hobby of Gulliver’s, it is obvious that the only way he could have changed his mind so severely as he does through the course of the book is by leaving his comforts and gaining the first hand experiences of travel. Travel allows you a more varied and wider scope of past experiences to use when trying to solve problems. Swift’s use of Gulliver as a first person narrator emphasizes the importance he places on this first hand experiences. The book could not work written as a third person because the fictional places would not give the reader the same intense feeling of adventure. Travel comes alive when written from the view of the person who has actually been there. An omnipotent narrator would shift the focus of the book away from the teachings of foreign societies and place it on the character of Gulliver himself. This is clearly not the intent of Swift. The book open’s with a letter Gulliver writes reflecting on his travels to his cousin. He makes a statement “I do in the next place complain of my own great want of judgment, in being prevailed upon by the in treaties and false reasonings of you and some others, very much against mine own opinion, on suffer my travels to be published.” This is a demonstration of how important seeing is believing is to Gulliver. Throughout this letter Gulliver acknowledges how his stories will not be preserved as truthful or how he will be looked at with contempt for his new scorn for his homeland, a society that he now comes to view as whole inadequate. He recognizes that the first hand experience of seeing and living even for however brief in a foreign culture is the only way to truly appreciate and understand what can be gained from learning from one another. Gulliver demonstrates this phenomenon by his desire to see as much as he can while on his adventures. He is not unlike a common tourist in his desires to see...
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