Gulliver’s Travels – A Book Review

Could not find the exact cover of the edition I read but this comes close

Gulliver's Travels

I am still on the classics kick as you can see! After the mammoth Bleak House, I thought the relatively slim Gulliver’s Travels would be a cakewalk. Not true at all! In some ways, this was a more challenging read.

Anyway, on to the synopsis:

Gulliver’s Travels really is a compilation of 4 different journeys:

  • Journey to Liiliput
  • Journey to Brobdingnag
  • Journey to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Gluggdubdrib and Japan
  • Journey to the land of the Houyhnhnms

Lilliput: This is the most popular story, and one that I read (an abridged version) in childhood. Of course at that time, the satire went completely over my head. This time, things were a lot more understandable. In this story, Gulliver gets shipwrecked onto an island occupied by miniature people. These people are very similar to our own with the same vices we have. And Swift uses these people as a mirror to highlight our own follies (focusing primarily on politics and kings).

Really famous image of the Lilliputians binding Gulliver

Really famous image of the Lilliputians binding Gulliver

Brobdingnag: In this second voyage, Gulliver is shipwrecked onto an island occupied by giants. At first, he is contemptuous of them, thinking them an ugly race, but as he spends more time, he begins to appreciate the king and his government. The king and Gulliver have long discourses together comparing their ways of living and Gulliver comes away feeling embarrassed about England and it’s government.

Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Gluggdubdrib and Japan: I found this book the weakest among all the books. It was all too fantastical for me – a floating island, a race of immortal people, servants of ghouls…there was just a bit too much squeezed into this section for my taste. In addition, Swift uses this journey to satirize scientists who are always working on impractical discoveries. Somehow, this section was not really convincing. I mean, if scientists did not spend time and money trying to invent new things, then how would the human race have actually grown so much so fast?

Houyhnhnms: This is probably the most savage and the most pessimistic of his journeys. In this journey, Gulliver finds to his amazement that men have degenerated into savages (called Yahoos) and are now being ruled by an intelligent and benevolent race called the Houyhnhnms (who are horses that have evolved into intelligent beings). Gulliver is devastated to find out this degeneration and after several discourses with his master Houyhnhnm, he decides he wants to continue living with them. Unfortunately for him, he is not one of them, and is soon asked to leave. He returns home and struggles to re-adjust himself to mankind’s treacherous, lying ways.

My thoughts on the book:

First up, I want to say that I found Swift’s language and grammar rather difficult to adjust to. He had an unfortunate habit of inappropriately (at least in today’s English usage) capitalizing words right in the middle of sentences. An example is the opening sentence of this book:

I hope you will be ready to own publicly, whenever you shall be called to it, that by your great and frequent Urgency you prevailed on me to publish a very loose and uncorrect Account of my Travels; with Direction to hire some young Gentlemen of either University to put them in Order, and correct the Style, as my Cousin Dampier did by my Advice, in his Book called, A Voyage round the World.

Oh, and did I mention he was verbose? ;) It took some time to get used to such a style, but was able to ignore it once the story starts to get going.

Another thing that bothered me was his use of satire. I generally prefer humor to be more subtle. In many places, it felt that Swift was using a hammer to convey his point when a sharp prod of a knitting needle would have been more effective. In places, his jokes are vulgar and gross too.

I was also expecting some kind of adventures in the book, and although he does have adventures, the focus is really on the dialogues…and there are pages and pages of extremely pessimistic dialogues :(. Reading this book made me feel that Swift must really be quite a misanthrope, and that does not really suit me.

But in spite of it all, I think this is a book that people should read. It’s not easy reading, but he does make some good points that I can appreciate, and I can understand why this book is termed a Classic. In spite of my negative points on this book, I am glad I read it :)

Btw, it’s so cool that two words which are commonly used today probably originate from this book:

  • Lilliputian is now a word that is used to refer to something that is small.
  • Yahoo is now slang used to refer to uncouth people living in remote places.

Isn’t that so cool?




  • Nachiketa Ghosh

    thanks han ye mera eng holiday homework hai

    • Nishita

      @Nachiketa Ghosh: you’re welcome. Glad it comes in useful ;)

  • http://aisjournal.com A. I. Sajib

    Interesting. I’ve watched the screen adaption and like always I feel like there was a lot of thing missing on the screen. Like the third part you mentioned. But the movie was overall a good watch anyway.

  • http://parwatisingari,wordpress.com parwatisingari

    Lovely review. Glad to have visited your space.

    • http://nishitak.com Nish

      @Parvati: Thank you for visiting and commenting :)

      • http://parwatisingari,wordpress.com parwatisingari

        Nish the parwati is with a W and not V it is my grandmother’s name and she was fanatic about it. :)

        • http://nishitak.com Nish

          @Parwati: Oops, sorry about that, I didn’t look closely. Thanks for correcting me :)

  • http://facebook harshita nagar

    awsome book …………………….

  • SUSHMITA

    SO GOOD I LOVE IT

  • RAM PAUL

    GOOD WORK

    • ziya

      hai

  • http://thewordbookie.wordpress.com GauravSahi

    Gulliver is one of my favorite set of books. Though the first two stories are enjoyable, but I couldn’ digest the last parts. As you mentioned, while reading it in the good old days, the satire went like a bouncer over the head. Probably it was because of the old-school writing style and grammar. But, now it was like, “Did I miss that part before, or, It seems like I haven’t read that like before.” Overall, its an enjoyable journey and is a must have for every bookaholic :)

  • http://www.tube8.com asss

    choo..tiya

  • http://facebook angelia

    i just needed the part3 and part 4 book review so, it wasn’t to useful

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/cleobonny6 Cleo Bonny

    Reading Ambassador Cleo Bonny
    He capitalized on the words right in the middle or last of sentences. He does have adventures or pessimistic dialogues and dialogues. But thats when the book becomes not so obvious

  • http://w.w.w.google.com natasha

    it’s cool book

  • Ramstein Ramirez

    Wow !

  • rtd

    Nice criticism

  • http://goole Shahzada noor

    I still can’t believe that I had not read this book before…:0

  • akshay yadav

    its sooooo niceeee

  • http://yahoo aparna

    nice story……………

  • rhythm

    wonderful story i have read ever………………..

  • ASHU GOYAL

    Its a wonderful story and i like it

  • snigdha roy

    superb..///

  • prerit sharma

    its like jajantaram mamantaram as very old story

  • http://yahoo kartik mysterio

    its the best site i have ever operated you should visit it

  • Amrin

    i needed a full book review for my assignments …..and this is actually wonderful…..
    it helped…….thanxx…..and the story is actually great…

  • merry grace herrera

    wow n wow !!!! sulit ang panunuod ko sa web. na to !!!

  • lavanya

    sema story i hava nvr read a story like this!!!

  • http://http anisha panda

    a wonderful story amazing ending

  • http://articlespk1.blogspot.com/ latest articles

    amazing story sir nice keep it up

  • saloni

    it is reall y fantastic………today i saw dis movie and enjoyed……..

    thanx for such a great movie……….

  • http://bookphantom.blogspot.com BookPhantom

    I’m reading this right now – I’m only on part one, and I’m in agony. I can tolerate the old language, but I find his constant descriptions of the size of things annoying – It’s like reading about the building of the Temple in the Bible – this many cubits, and that many cubits…I’ll keep plugging along, but I find Gulliver’s peeing on the queen’s burning palace chambers not the least bit funny (I guess the joke is played out in our modern age, where car window decals of the little boy peeing on a rival college’s logo are ubiquitous).

    • http://nishitak.com Nish

      @BookPhantom: You have my sympathies. I found the urinating thing very childish as well…

  • sumitkaushik

    it is really good book and well written by johnathn swift. this book focused on the man who not believe the gods making differently.

  • http://evanescentthoughts.wordpress.com Avada Kedavra

    I think I had just read the Lilliput and Brobdingnag part when I was a kid.. never knew it had 4 different parts.. need to get hold of the book and read the other two.. nice review! Love your book reviews :)

  • http://openmindinsertbook.blogspot.com Stephanie

    I’m just now finishing up reading this out loud to my son (as part of schoolwork), and neither of us are enjoying it (I was just rejoicing to my husband that tomorrow is our last chapter. Hurray! Swift’s writing style is just so unpleasant- the sentences go on for days, the paragraphs take up page upon page with no break, it’s exhausting to read aloud and when things go on for that long, it’s hard to wrap my brain around what he’s trying to say. Your review is pretty much spot-on about what I thought (except that I HATE Swift’s made up words in the languages of the new areas. I swear I gag every time I have to read ‘Glumdalclitch.’ *shudder*)

  • http://astripedarmchair.wordpress.com/ Eva

    Aww: I thought the vulgar jokes were hilarious. The pee incident with the Lilliputans?! heehee

    I didn’t like the last section though…I thought Gulliver was so over the top with his disgust for human beings it made me dismissive of even the reasonable problems he had.

    Still, I enjoyed the majority of it! And like you, I’m glad I’ve read it. :)

    • http://nishitak.com Nish

      @Eva: I found the pee incident with the Lilliputians funny…but as the book progresses, it just got gross in places (his descriptions of the women in Brobdingnag)…and I totally agree with you on the last journey. It was downright depressing. I would really have liked something a little more optimistic.

  • http://zenleaf.amandagignac.com Amanda

    I actually really adored this book and the use of satire when I read it in college, but I’m not sure, without doing it as part of a class, I would have gotten as much out of it. I’m not sure now, either, if I would like it as much. It seemed right for me at 18/19 yrs old, but perhaps not in my early 30s…

  • Su

    I have fond memories of watching Gulliver’s Travels with my grandma. From the time I was 6 or so, until my early teens, we would watch it every year together when it aired on cable. I came across a copy of the book a few years ago at a discount shop and picked it up. Haven’t read it yet, and after reading your review, think I just might place it in the donate bin…I want to keep my memories as they are.

  • http://timtamtomika.blogspot.com Vaishnavi

    I never knew Gulliver’s Travels was all of this. I remember reading a very abridgded version as a kid that is all. I don’t like an overdose of satire either. But intriguing….I definitely will read this one. Thanks for sharing :)

  • Teri

    You are a very talented book reviewer. I have a strong sense that I enjoyed your review of Gulliver’s Travels more then I would actually enjoy the book… :) Well done.

  • Pingback: Gulliver's Travels – A Book Review | Nishita's Rants and Raves | Info Travel

  • http://givingreadingachance.wordpress.com givingreadingachance

    Actually I have never read Gulliver’s Travels. But I remember reading the 1st story too, and yes an abridged version.
    **In many places, it felt that Swift was using a hammer to convey his point when a sharp prod of a knitting needle would have been more effective. ** – LOL! I like subtle humor too :)

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