Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

Although I have seen Gulliver's Travels in the form of film, theatre and children's book, I have neveer before read the full classical version. Having read the first part I am surprised at how satirical it is; in fact I am coming to the conclusion that Jonathan Swift was using it mainly as a platform to explore what must have been then quite radical ideas on sociology and politics. There are ideas on child-rearing, legal systems, morals, republics, and monetary policy - among many other things. He was obviously encouraged by the ideas of the Enlightenment to think about alternative worlds. He says a lot about the stupidity of war - pointing out that all it needs is someone in power to advocate a certain way of breaking open an egg, and for another to disagree, for people to go to battle, and lives to be lost.

It is also funny in its crudity. Gulliver is expelled from Lilliput because of his unorthodox manner of quenching a fire in the queen's rooms of the palace. Thereafter she is thoroughly disgusted, and refuses to return - and I can't say I blame her. However, I am not sure I would regard his action a capital offence.

I am reading the book on my Kindle. This is useful because it helps me find definitions for the unfamiliar words, and also, more interestingly, the words which then meant something entirely different from what they mean today. I am learning yet more about the eighteenth century.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Swift is indeed crammed full of metaphor and allegory that seem to go on endlessly.

As a student of 18th century English lit, I strongly recommended a very insightful read concerning the plight of women during the age, a book called "Roxana" by Daniel DeFoe.

Thu Dec 01, 04:20:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thank you, LK! I feel privileged to have a student of 18th century English Lit see my thoughts! I am sure it is possible to spend a life-time studying just this book and its implications. Thank you too for your recommendation. By the wonders of Kindle Roxanna is now in my grasp. I can't wait to read it!

Thu Dec 01, 07:46:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, I don't generally often comment on other blogs, with some exceptions of course: if I meet them through friends and...especially if they read 18th century lit.

I'm currently writing a thesis on "Pamela" by Samuel Richardson, but I have written about "Roxana," a book of which you will find to be extremely different than Swift's.

To think you might read it according to my recommendation is making me blush a little; but I will definitely follow your blog to see how things are with you (i.e., as school permits).


ps Thank you for visiting my blog, I hadn't expected that. I keep my literary blog separate from that one, so the one you've seen is my play around blog. For criticism, I write at:

Fri Dec 02, 05:11:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thanks ilcoloredirosso! I shall take a look.

I have to say I have been favourably astonished by the scope of Jonathan Swift's imagination, and also his word power, so I am encouraged to discover more - it seems to have been a very interesting time for literature.

Having said that my foray into 18th century literature is likely to be a stuttering one, I fear. It is part of a bigger project - but this preliminary dip has been great so far.

Fri Dec 02, 07:58:00 am  

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