Gulliver's Travels: Jonathan Swift's Allegoric Masterpiece | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 09, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 09, 2015


Gulliver's Travels: Jonathan Swift's Allegoric Masterpiece

Reviewed By Sajida Akhtar Choudhury

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) was one of the top-ranking English writers of the eighteenth century. He is widely known as a satirist. His main aim of satire was to reform mankind's follies and vices. Swift was a man of piercing intellect who keenly observed the negative features of human beings. Gulliver's Travels is his most popular book.  

Gulliver's Travels is an adventurous book describing several voyages of Lemuel Gulliver who served as a physician on a ship. His ship drowned during one voyage but he somehow swam to the shore and fell unconscious. As he woke up he found himself surrounded by a great number of tiny people called Lilliputians.  The Lilliputians were only six inches tall while Gulliver was a giant in comparison to them. Gulliver became an object of great interest to them. They captured him instantly. As a captive he was carried into the capital city on a special wagon drawn by fifteen hundred horses and was chained while he was placed on display for the ordinary Lilliputians. The Lilliputians won a battle against their enemy Blefuscu with the help of Gulliver who alone captured all the ships of the Blefuscu navy. Some people got jealous of Gulliver's popularity which led him to be trapped by political intrigues. After being sentenced to be blinded, Gulliver somehow managed to escape and reached England. He made his second voyage to the land of the giants  Brobdingnag. This time he looked like a tiny creature in comparison to the huge physical size of the Brobdingnagians. Being interested in Gulliver, a farmer took him to his house. His little daughter took care of Gulliver with deep curiosity. She treated Gulliver like a toy. The farmer sold Gulliver to the queen and she presented him to the king. Gulliver informed the king about the politics, culture and traditions of England. The king got astonished after knowing about the political conflicts within England. One day, Gulliver was picked up by an eagle, dropped into the sea and saved by a British ship. 

Gulliver's voyage to a land of horses with human-like intellect is the climax of the book. This island is inhabited by two kinds of creatures the Yahoos and the intelligent horses. He discovered that the rational horses are the masters of the ugly, half-humans called Yahoos. The Yahoos acted like savage animals. They attacked Gulliver for no reason. He is saved by the horses. The benevolent horses gave him shelter, protected him from further attacks and treated him with kindness and sympathy. Those horses seemed far more civilized and wiser than the human-like creatures, Yahoos. Gulliver was shocked at the fall of the physical and intellectual superiority of humans on that island.  Gulliver was impressed with the behavior of the horses. He started to feel disgusted at the Yahoos even though they looked like humans.

The book Gulliver's Travels serves a significant moral purpose. Jonathan Swift attempted to stir up our conscience through this story to correct the faults in human nature. It's actually an allegoric book. The Lilliputian race represents human pride, conspiracy, malice and political disputes. They overestimated their power though they were too small to be properly noticed. The Brobdingnagians are totally opposite to the Lilliputians. The Brobdingnagians are kind and compassionate despite their enormous physical height and power. The Brobdingnagian ruler refused to take gunpowder from Gulliver because he opposed the idea of antagonism and destruction. In this way, Jonathan Swift through his masterpiece Gulliver's Travels, extended a message to the readers about the value of peace and rationality.

The reviewer is a student of Metropolitan University, Sylhet

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