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     Volume 2 Issue 15 | April 22 , 2007|


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Classic Corner

Gulliver's travels

A Voyage To Lilliput

The book begins with a short preamble in which Gulliver, in the style of books of the time, gives a brief outline of his life and history prior to his voyages. The reader learns he is middle-aged and middle-class, with a talent for medicine and languages, and that he enjoys travelling. This turns out to be fortunate. Upon careful reading, this introduction proves to be one of the most satirical points in the book: laced with innuendos and other forms of ironic humour: a trademark of Swift's writing.

On his first voyage, Gulliver is washed ashore after a shipwreck and awakes to find himself a prisoner of a race of 6 inch (15cm) tall people, inhabitants of the neighbouring and rival countries of Lilliput and Blefuscu. After giving assurances of his good behaviour he is given a residence in Lilliput and becomes a favourite of the court. There follow Gulliver's observations on the Court of Lilliput, which is intended to satirise the court of then King George I. After he assists the Lilliputians to subdue their neighbours the Blefuscudans (by stealing their fleet) but refuses to reduce the country to a province of Lilliput, he is charged with treason and sentenced to be blinded. Fortunately, Gulliver escapes to Blefuscu, where he builds a raft and sails out to a ship that he spotted on the horizon which takes him back home. The feuding between the Lilliputians and the Blefuscudans is meant to represent the feuding countries of England and France, but the reason for the war is meant to satirize the feud between Catholics and Protestants.

A Voyage to Brobdingnag

Gulliver Exhibited to the Brobdingnag Farmer by Richard RedgraveWhile exploring a new country, Gulliver is abandoned by his companions and found by a farmer who is 72 feet (22 meters) tall (the scale of Lilliput is approximately 12:1, of Brobdingnag 1:12) who treats him as a curiosity and exhibits him for money. He is then bought by the Queen of Brobdingnag and kept as a favourite at court. In between small adventures such as fighting giant flies and being carried to the roof by a monkey, he discusses the state of Europe with the King, who is not impressed. On a trip to the seaside, his "travelling box" is seized by a giant eagle and dropped into the sea where he is picked up by sailors and returned to England.

A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibari, Glubbdubdrib, Luggnagg and Japan

Gulliver's ship is attacked by pirates and he is marooned on a desolate rocky island. Fortunately he is rescued by the flying island of Laputa, a kingdom devoted to the arts of music and mathematics but utterly unable to use these for practical ends. The device described simply as The Engine is possibly the first literary description in history of something resembling a computer. Laputa's method of throwing rocks at rebellious surface cities also seems the first time that aerial bombardment was conceived as a method of warfare. Gulliver is then taken to Balnibari to await a Dutch trader who can take him on to Japan and thence to England. While there, he tours the country as the guest of a low-ranking courtier and sees the ruin brought about by blind pursuit of science without practical results in a satire on the Royal Society and its experiments. He also encounters the struldbrugs, unfortunates who are both immortal and very, very old. He travels to a magician's dwelling and discusses history with the ghosts of historical figures, the most obvious restatement of the "ancients versus moderns" theme in the book. The trip is otherwise reasonably free of incident and Gulliver returns home, being determined to stay a homebody for the rest of his days.


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