“Since therefore the knowledge and survey of vice is in this world so necessary to the constituting of human virtue, and the scanning of error to the confirmation of truth, how can we more safely, and with less danger, scout into the regions of sin and falsity than by reading all manner of tractates and hearing all manner of reason? And this is the benefit which may be had of books promiscuously read.” -- John Milton, Areopagitica (1644)

Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels - Jonathan Swift, Robert DeMaria Jr. What a stinging satire on English politics.

The most intriguing is how Gulliver's mindset has changed over the course of four discrete voyages and comes to think of his circumstances differently upon his return home.

The allegories and satire appear to elude many who simply look at the story at face value for entertainment without trying to understand the author's intent or interest in the story behind the story.

This book was highly influenced by the political events of the English Civil War and that of the Protestant/Anglican in-fighting. Some things seem astonishingly prescient that they have changed very little in nearly 400 years. A few examples:

1) Seemingly trivial differences in religious doctrines between different groups often become of tremendous importance and lead to acrimonious civil conflicts and eventually wars, compared to the long and bloody war between the Big-Endians and Little-Endians caused a disagreement over where to crack eggs. (The Small Endians break their eggs on the small end, while the Big-Endians break their eggs on the large end.)

2) The Whigs and Tories waste a massive amount of energy and resources on political infighting, represented by the two Lilliputian political parties separated solely by the aesthetic choice between wearing high heels and low heels.

3) Billions of dollars of research grant (taxpayers' money) are wasted on "silly science" today, like the "shrimp on a treadmill." [Here] [And here], exemplified by the years of research expended by the Royal Academy scientists in Laputa on extracting sunshine from cucumbers or mixing paint by smell.
The first man I saw was of a meagre aspect, with sooty hands and face…[H]e has been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers. He told me, he did not doubt, that, in eight years more, he should be able to supply the governor’s gardens with sunshine, at a reasonable rate...

Swift's exploration of imaginary societies is full of humor, irony, and exaggeration, and effectively exposes and criticizes the stupidity of English politics at that time, although he falls short on delivering resolutions or ideas for improvement.

Swift’s commentaries are often insightful and piercing, but sometimes harsh and unforgiving to the point where narrative eloquence and lyrical quality (which I've expected to find in classic literature) are sacrificed for the sake of crushing causticity.

A major argument that Swift makes in this novel is that balance and moderation are the keys to success, individually and collectively. However, I occasionally find Swift's bitter irony a little excessive and extreme. For example, when Gulliver returns home from the land of the Houhynhnms and is greeted by his wife and children, he feels the utmost shame, confusion and horror. To me, this borders on straight-out misanthropy. Sarcasm may employ ambivalence, and sarcasm doesn't necessarily have to be jarringly ironic.

Also, some of Swift’s critiques seem lifeless and didn't strike any strong chord with me.

Despite the legacy of this work, I find the prose hardly enjoyable or memorable.

This is just how I saw it. Glad I read it.

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