Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Gulliver's Travels, Part 2

After the well-known voyage to Lilliput, Lemuel Gulliver is content to stay home with his family for only 2 months before he set out again.  Just as the narrative started, I found myself thinking, "I need to search for sailing lingo just to follow this".  Then one of the few, but pertinent, footnotes in my edition pointed out that a section is taken from a Mariner's Magazine published around that time.  It is purported to be almost verbatim.  Funny that nowadays we call it plagiarism and back then it was to enhance the technical feel of the book.

Gulliver is then stranded in a new land where, as luck would have it, everyone and everything is 12 times bigger than he is in complete inverse proportion of him to the Lilliputians.  The interesting thing is how the perspective and observations change from one extreme to the other.  Not just the comical descriptions of the land and people (although the horror Gulliver expresses at seeing the wet nurse expose the tools of her trade when suckling a child is truly hilarious) but the whole manner of observing as from the outside in (Lilliput) to inside out (Brobdingnag).  Here is where the true satirical luster of Swift's writing shines.   The sheer audacity of the facetious writing is amazing.

There are some dry political/governmental descriptions that I had to gloss over (not being my field of interest, I didn't want to drool on the pages with boredom) but the depiction of the English/European people given by the king at the end of chapter 6 is definitely worth a read and the beginning of it is given at the end of this post. I think you will find it as true and pertinent now as it was then.

My favorite thing to note is Gulliver's ego unchanged throughout either of his adventures.  He is adamant that anybody who agrees with him is clever and intelligent but those who disagree are ignorant and wrong-headed.

Have I convinced you to get your own copy, yet?  I'll be working part 3 next, join me on my journey through the classics.  If you're not keen on Gulliver, consider Darwin for our next adventure.  Or, suggest something different, let me know!

This is the king holding Gulliver in his hand to deliver his opinion of the European people:
"My little friend Grildrig [Gulliver's name in that country], you have made a most admirable panegyric upon your country.  You have clearly proved that ignorance, idleness and vice are the proper ingredients for qualifying a legislator.  That laws are best explained, interpreted, and applied by those whose interest and abilities lie in perverting, confounding, and eluding them.  I observe among you some lines of an institution, which is its original might have been tolerable, but these half erased, and the rest wholly blurred and blotted by corruptions."

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