Cover image for Gulliver's travels
Gulliver's travels
Swift, Jonathan, 1667-1745.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Signet Classic, [1999]

Physical Description:
311 pages : illustrations, map ; 18 cm.
Reading Level:
1330 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 13.5 25.0 507.

Reading Counts RC High School 8.8 32 Quiz: 04865 Guided reading level: NR.
Added Author:
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Gulliver's Travels is Jonathan Swift's satiric masterpiece, the fantastic tale of the four voyages of Lemuel Gulliver, an English ship's surgeon. First, he is shipwrecked in the land of Lilliput, where the alarmed residents are only six inches tall. His second voyage takes him to the land of Brobdingnag, where the people are sixty feet tall. Further adventures bring Gulliver to an island that floats in the sky, and to a land where horses are endowed with reason and beasts are shaped like men.

Author Notes

Apparently doomed to an obscure Anglican parsonage in Laracor, Ireland, even after he had written his anonymous masterpiece, A Tale of a Tub (c.1696), Swift turned a political mission to England from the Irish Protestant clergy into an avenue to prominence as the chief propagandist for the Tory government. His exhilaration at achieving importance in his forties appears engagingly in his Journal to Stella (1710--13), addressed to Esther Johnson, a young protegee for whom Swift felt more warmth than for anyone else in his long life. At the death of Queen Anne and the fall of the Tories in 1714, Swift became dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. In Ireland, which he considered exile from a life of power and intellectual activity in London, Swift found time to defend his oppressed compatriots, sometimes in such contraband essays as his Drapier's Letters (1724), and sometimes in such short mordant pieces as the famous A Modest Proposal (1729); and there he wrote perhaps the greatest work of his time, Gulliver's Travels (1726).

Using his characteristic device of the persona (a developed and sometimes satirized narrator, such as the anonymous hack writer of A Tale of a Tub or Isaac Bickerstaff in Predictions for the Ensuing Year, who exposes an astrologer), Swift created the hero Gulliver, who in the first instance stands for the bluff, decent, average Englishman and in the second, humanity in general. Gulliver is a full and powerful vision of a human being in a world in which violent passions, intellectual pride, and external chaos can degrade him or her---to animalism, in Swift's most horrifying images---but in which humans do have scope to act, guided by the Classical-Christian tradition. Gulliver's Travels has been an immensely successful children's book (although Swift did not care much for children), so widely popular through the world for its imagination, wit, fun, freshness, vigor, and narrative skill that its hero is in many languages a common proper noun. Perhaps as a consequence, its meaning has been the subject of continuing dispute, and its author has been called everything from sentimental to mad. Swift died in Dublin and was buried next to his beloved "Stella."

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5-7. Focusing on the two adventures of Gulliver that have always appealed to children--the story of Lilliput, where the human is a giant among dwarves; and the story of Brobdingnag, where the human is a dwarf among giants--Riordan and Ambrus have adapted Swift's satiric ~fantasy into a romp for young readers. The play with size and perspective makes for vastly entertaining stories and pictures. Right at the start we see, stretched across two pages, the eighteenth-century gentleman tied firmly with ropes while at least 40 tiny men run all over him and attack him with bows and arrows that feel like sharp needles. His handkerchief is a carpet large enough to cover the state room at the palace; when he's freed, he has 300 cooks to prepare his food. The opposite happens in Brobdingnag, where the lice are the size of pigs rooting in the mud, Gulliver is horrified to see people as though through a magnifying glass ("It made me realize how ugly people are, with spots, pimples, and freckles that normally the eye does not see"), and the noise of a palace concert nearly deafens him. Particularly in Brobdingnag, Riordan keeps some of the sharpness of Swift, but Ambrus' sunny watercolor-and-ink illustrations are a bright counterpoint, mischievous more than grotesque, with lots of smiling, energetic creatures of all sizes staring at each other in amazement. ~--Hazel Rochman

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-Jonathan Swift's satirical novel was first published in 1726, yet it is still valid today. Gulliver's Travels describes the four fantastic voyages of Lemuel Gulliver, a kindly ship's surgeon. Swift portrays him as an observer, a reporter, and a victim of circumstance. His travels take him to Lilliput where he is a giant observing tiny people. In Brobdingnag, the tables are reversed and he is the tiny person in a land of giants where he is exhibited as a curiosity at markets and fairs. The flying island of Laputa is the scene of his next voyage. The people plan and plot as their country lies in ruins. It is a world of illusion and distorted values. The fourth and final voyage takes him to the home of the Houyhnhnms, gentle horses who rule the land. He also encounters Yahoos, filthy bestial creatures who resemble humans. The story is read by British actor Martin Shaw with impeccable diction and clarity and great inflection. If broken into short listening segments, the tapes are an excellent tool for presenting an abridged version of Gulliver's Travels.-Jean Deck, Lambuth University, Jackson, TN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This latest addition to the Cambridge series of Swift's work is an exhaustive piece of scholarship. Womersley (Univ. of Oxford, UK) has carefully prepared an edition of Gulliver's Travels that takes into account the many editions published in Swift's lifetime as well as textual history and critical reception. Womersley provides notes and commentary that open up the meaning of the text and offer insights into an 18th-century worldview. His choice of ancillary matter supports scholarly inquiry with chronologies that locate the work in both English and world history. The apparatus--especially the introduction, long notes, and passages from Swift's correspondence--provides focused access to this singular work of fiction. Appendixes, illustrations, a select bibliography, and a user-friendly index complete the volume. This edition of Swift's masterwork will be of great benefit to serious readers of Swift and to specialists in 18th-century literature. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty. M. H. Kealy Immaculata University



From Michael Seidel's Introduction to Gulliver's Travels When pressed to write up his own account of his travels by the captain who rescued him from Brobdingnag, Lemuel Gulliver says, "I thought we were already overstocked with books of travels: that nothing could now pass which was not extraordinary". Gulliver has an odd sense of his experiences if he thinks they would pass for anything but extraordinary, and extraordinary they certainly are. Gulliver's Travels was a phenomenal success upon its publication in October 1726, read as eagerly and voraciously by all classes of English society as Defoe's Robinson Crusoe had been a few years before, in 1719. The poet and dramatist John Gay wrote Swift about the reception of the Travels in London: "From the highest to the lowest it is universally read, from the cabinet-council to the nursery" (October 28, 1726). Within a year of its publication, editions of Gulliver's Travels were pirated and translated on the European continent. Its famous episodes and its nomenclature--Lilliputians, Brobdingnagians, Yahoos--are to this day recognized all over the world, from Gulliver theme parks in Japan to the most up-to-date dictionaries of modern slang. How did Gulliver's Travels get written and what were Jonathan Swift's motives in writing it? In the first decade of the eighteenth century, Swift shared certain obsessions with others, namely a group of writers, statesmen, and professionals who called themselves the Scriblerus Club, consisting of the poets Alexander Pope, Thomas Parnell, and John Gay, the Queen's physician, John Arbuthnot, and the chief minister of state, Robert Harley. Under the general direction of Pope, one of the club's primary projects was a volume of memoirs written purportedly by the invented character who gave the club its name, Martin Scriblerus, a modern hack-writer or scribbler (the terms were interchangeable) who embodied all the cultural, intellectual, and political vacuities of the early eighteenth century as Pope, Swift, and their friends saw them. In 1713 Pope assigned Swift the sixteenth chapter of a proposed satiric memoir on Scriblerus's various journeys, intending to capitalize on the immensely popular genre of travel writing. He encouraged Swift to detail Martin's travels to four different lands, mapping voyages to distant continents along the sea-lanes of known and unknown worlds: "to the Remains of the Pygmaean Empire," to "the Land of the Giants," to the "Kingdom of Philosophers, who govern by the Mathematicks," and to a land in which "he discovers a Vein of Melancholy proceeding almost to a Disgust of his Species" (Pope, The Memoirs of the Extraordinary Life, Works, and Discoveries of Martinus Scriblerus , p. 165). Pope must have sensed he had assigned Swift what amounted to a labor of love in parodying the travel literature of the time because, as is often true for satirists, Swift thrilled at making fun of those things that he found appalling. And there is little doubt Swift found appalling the sorry lot of characters Gulliver describes in the Travels as crisscrossing the world: "fellows of desperate fortunes," some of whom "were undone by lawsuits; others spent all they had in drinking, whoring, and gaming; others fled for treason; many for murder, theft, poisoning, robbery, perjury, forgery, coining false money; for committing rapes or sodomy; for flying from their colours, or deserting to the enemy; and most of them had broken prison". Memoirs by these sorts and their more sanitized brethren filled Swift's personal library, which, in lots cataloged at his death, contained more than 600 travel accounts. When Swift began the assignment given him by Pope, he sketched out some material for what would become the first and third books of the Travels , the Lilliputian and Laputian voyages. But he shelved the rest of the assignment before the end of 1713 at a time when the high-ranking political ministers for whom he worked in England fell out of power. Swift felt it prudent to abscond to Ireland, and although he held the position of Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin--which seemed to him a booby prize for his larger ambitions--he considered himself a virtual exile in Ireland for the rest of his life. The political situation soured for Swift to an even greater extent in the early 1720s. With his patrons dead, still out of power, or in exile, and with some of his friends under scrutiny for treason, he decided to reprise his notes for the Scriblerus project and convert them into a four-part book. He completed the first and third voyages and supplemented them by composing what is now the fourth voyage to the land of horses, Houyhnhnmland, and then returning to what is now the second voyage, to the land of giants, Brobdingnag. By 1725 he was boasting in letters to Pope that he thought he had something truly splendid on his hands, and he asked his friend to arrange for publication. Pope handled all the necessary details in England. After a decade and a half, Swift made good on his original commitment, though Martinus Scriblerus fell out and Lemuel Gulliver dropped in. Excerpted from Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

About the Series
About This Volume
Part I Gulliver's Travels: The Complete Text
Introduction: Biographical and Historical Contexts
The Complete Text [1965 Herbert Davis Edition, based on the Faulkner Edition of 1735]
Part II Gulliver's Travels: A Case Study in Contemporary Criticism
A Critical History of Gulliver's Travels
Feminist Criticism and Gulliver's Travels
What Is Feminist Criticism?
Feminist Criticism: A Selected Bibliography
A Feminist Perspective:
Felicity A. Nussbaum, Gulliver's Malice: Gender and the Satiric Stance
New Historicism and Gulliver's Travels
What Is New Historicism?
New Historicism: A Selected Bibliography
A New Historicist Perspective:
Carole Fabricant, History, Narrativity, and Swift's Project to "Mend the World"
Deconstruction and Gulliver's Travels
What Is Deconstruction?
Deconstruction: A Selected Bibliography
A Deconstuctionist Perspective:
Terry Castle, Why the Houyhnhnms Don't Write: Swift, Satire, and the Fear of the Text
Reader-Response Criticism and Gulliver's Travels
What Is Reader-Response Criticism?
Reader-Response Criticism: A Selected Bibliography
A Reader-Response Perspective:
Michael J. Conlon, Performance as Response in Swift's Gulliver's Travels
Psychoanalytic Criticism and Gulliver's Travels
What Is Psychoanalytic Criticism?
Psychoanalytic Criticism: A Selected Bibliography
A Psychoanalytic Perspective:
Carol Barash, Violence and the Maternal: Swift, Psychoanalysis, and the 1720s
Glossary of Critical and Theoretical Terms
About the Contributors