When Jonathan Swift‘s infamous novel Gulliver’s Travels was published in 1726 it enjoyed instant popularity. During the last hundred years, it has evolved into various feature films including more than one animated version.
For years Gulliver’s Travels has been enjoyed by children as a children’s book and it is easy to recognise its appeal. Gulliver sets out on various adventures where he encounters various strange and wonderful things: from a tiny race of people to beings that are 12 times the size of humans; to the floating islands of Laputa and the country of the Houyhnhnms. Yet, it has also been labeled as a forerunner of the modern novel.
On completing Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift was too scared to publish it. During the Age of the Enlightenment, hefty charges like imprisonment or the death penalty were braved by authors for creating works that might have degraded authority.
After rigorous persuasion by Swift’s original publisher Gulliver’s Travels was published. While some praised his work, others branded Swift as mentally insane for his strange and wonderful stories. Did this divert any controversies the book might have caused?
Even though his fear of punishment for what he had written probably proved his state of sanity (for it proves that he was fully aware and in control of what he was doing) he had to deeply and cleverly embed his criticisms symbolically into his novel – so much so that academics are still deconstructing and interpreting it today.
Lee Perlman in an article about The Truth About Human Nature asks her thirteen year old son, after watching the most recent film adaptation starring Jack Black, his thoughts on the meaning behind Gulliver’s Travels. It’s simple, “Don’t lie”, he says.
In her article, Perlman looks at the history of satire in literature, dating back to ancient Greece. She argues that literature as unrealistic pieces of fiction is important because facts are not easily accessible. People seem to be able to accept human truths more easily in the form of satire.
Fantasy froms an intergral part to the success of Gulliver’s Travels, and not only do children understand it, there is so much for adults to take away from it. It is an important book to read or re-read. In fact, it’s a must-have for your collection.