6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 2 January 2014
Everyone should read Gullivers Travels. Bought for my daughter to read. If your only experience of Gullivers Travels is the popular image of his visit to Lilliput ....or even worse the Jack Black film (aaaargh!!) ....then you must read this intelligent and thoroughly entertaining book. Cannot recommend enough. You will not be disappointed! And if you thought a yahoo was a search engine you should definitely get reading!!
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on 5 June 2010
Its actual title is "Travels Into Several Remote Nations Of The World" as if by Lemuel Gulliver, but most people know it as "Gulliver's Travels" and the actual author is Jonathan Swift. The book works on numerous levels, it could be viewed as an adventure story for children, an early example of fantasy/science fiction, a general satire of humanity, or a more specific satire of events, society, and politics in which Swift lived. The latter was undoubtedly the way it was taken when first publish ed in 1726 and amended in 1735, but that is the most difficult way for the reader to view the book today. The Penguin Classics edition of "Gulliver's Travels" is of great assistance in helping the reader appreciate that aspect of the book, with a fine introduction by Robert Demaria, Jr., and detailed notes throughout the text to help explain many of the references.
Part I, "A Voyage to Lilliput" is the best known part of the book. This section has often been used in isolation of the other three parts of the book. This is the story where Gulliver is shipwrecked and washed up on a distant shore, only to find himself a captive of the Lilliputians, who are 1/12th the size of Gulliver. Swift is very detailed in discussing the minutia of Gulliver's experience, from how much he has to eat, to how he relieves himself. Swift satirizes the court of King George I, and of course travel books where the authors stretch the truth. Gulliver starts as a captive, becomes a loyal subject, but then is forced by his own morals to refuse the requests of the King of Lilliput which allows his enemies to work against him. As a result, Gulliver is forced to flee and as fortune would have it he makes it back to home.
In Part II, "A Voyage to Brobdingnag", Gulliver once again goes to sea, and is this time abandoned when he goes to look for fresh water. This time Gulliver finds himself in a somewhat reversed position, still captive, but this time by people who are 12 times his height. The notoriety of Gulliver's existence results in his again being a favorite of the court. Gulliver tries to impress the King with stories of Europe, but his stories of the use of guns and cannons has the opposite affect. This time Gulliver is rescued by luck when a giant bird drops him in the sea where he is found and returned again to England.
Part III, "A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib, and Japan again has Gulliver at sea, and his fortunes are worse yet, as his ship is taken by Pirates and he is marooned on an island. Here he is rescued by a flying island (Laputa) which is a kingdom where math and the arts are of paramount importance but they have no interest at all in Gulliver's information regarding other lands. Gulliver then travels to Balnurabi where he visits their Academy which is a satire of the Royal Society at the time. Gulliver decides to go to Japan to make his way on a Dutch ship back to England, but since he has time he first goes to Glubbdubdrib. Here he discusses history with the ghosts, and learns of the immortal Struldbruggs who spend most of their existence old and infirmed. Gulliver then makes his way back to Balnurabi and on to Japan, where he manages to avoid a ceremony where he would have to trample on the crucifix before returning to England. This is the last of the sections which Swift wrote, and is the most unusual.
Part IV, "A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms" starts with Gulliver breaking his promise to remain at home and returning to the Sea. Once again misfortune sets in and his crew mutinies and eventually leaves him on an unknown shore. Here Gulliver meets the dominant species, the Houyhnhns who are like horses. The humans of this land are called Yahoos, and their behavior and actions convince Gulliver that the Houyhnhms are preferable to his own species. In the end Gulliver much prefers life among the Houyhnhms to that among humans (Yahoos), even those in England. The Houyhnhms decide that Gulliver is a danger to their society, and so they exile him. Gulliver is rescued, no thanks to his own efforts, and finds himself once again among humans. Despite being treated wonderfully by the Portuguese captain, Gulliver cannot stand being among humans, and even when he makes it back to his home in England, he prefers to spend his time in the stables with the horses. This section contains my favorite part of the book, where Gulliver tries to defend European "Civilization" to the Houyhnhms by discussing European wars.
If one is looking to read "Gulliver's Travels" as a Children's book, then there are better editions than this one to choose. If you are looking to read the complete book as an adventure story or a general satire, then there are several editions which contain the complete novel, though this one will work for that as well. If you are looking to read it to understand the more specific and detailed satire that it offers, then the Penguin Classics publication is a very good choice of editions. In addition to the introduction and the notes mentioned before, there are also some textual notes discussing the differences in the 1726 and 1735 editions. For the most part, this book sticks with the 1726 edition, but there are several places where Robert Demaria, Jr. opts to use the 1735 text. This is also discussed in the notes and in "A Note on the Text" which precedes the novel.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I have always been aware of the name of this book, but had no real idea as to what the content was about. So, I set about to broaden my horizons, and I am glad that I did. Compared to other classics, the language is a lot easier to read, which is surprising given the age of the book.
Broken down into 4 parts, most people would be familiar with Liliput in part 1. I was under the misconception that the book was about that and nothing else. The following 3 parts I had no idea existed. Part 2 sees Gulliver as the small person as opposed to the giant in Part 1. Part 3 involves a flying island and Part 4 the Houyhnhnms, that I still struggle to pronounce.
There is a lot of satire to this book, which was often lost on me, but as a book it is a good read and as it is free, you have nothing to lose.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 20 September 2013
I enjoyed the more famous chapters about the hero being the prisoner and later the guest of miniature people, and then later being the pet and exhibit of giants. I also enjoyed the sections where he lands up at a country where horses are in charge and yahoos (uncivilized and savage humans) provide the power and transport.
However, I was conscious of not knowing enough about late Stuart politics and philosophy to understand a lot of the satire.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2007
It's a good read and probably every bit the masterpiece its reputation claims. The problem with satire, however, is that it doesn't stand alone. Parody, on the other hand, ought to make sense in itself, but obviously more sense if the object of the parody is understood and familiar. Satire only seems to make sense if you know the original.
The section in Lilliput describing the bloke with different sized heels on his shoes, for instance, is very funny, but only when the footnote has provided the context. He is described as having to negotiate a political line between the faction that likes high heels and the other that likes low ones. He makes awkward progress with both groups, since he can barely walk or stand up straight in a pair of shoes made up so he can have a foot in each camp. The reference is beautiful. It refers to High Church and Low Church in the Anglican tradition, and therefore to Whig and Tory, the opposing political parties of the time. To stay sweet with both, certain royals kept a foot in both camps, making their progress as ridiculous as the rough-shod Lilliputian.
In the books three sections, Gulliver is too big, then too small, then everyone is a horse except for the noxious Yahoos, of course. It was still a lot of fun and, probably, hard witting. The trouble, again, was knowing the targets. If today's Yahoos are considered... perhaps Swift might have googled his yahoos if he had been writing today.
One last observation is about well-known classics in general. The most famous scene from Gulliver's Travels, at least the one most depicted, is of Gulliver strapped to the ground by Lilliputian string and twine, while the little blighters run all over him. In Don Quixote, an equally quintessential scene is the tilting at windmills, mistaken by the knight for giants. It is interesting that both of these much quoted scenes appear very early in their respective books. I wonder if that might have something to do with certain people never getting very far through them!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 March 2014
At Classic Book Club for 9 and 10 year olds, I wanted to choose a book that the children would be unlikely to choose for themselves. This had lots of good points and the children loved drawing their own illustrations for each new land. There were lots of talking points for each and the children were interested in the different characters and their motivations. Although abridged, the language was still quite difficult at times and my group of children would have found it hard going to read on their own. Their ratings ranged from 4/10 to 10/10. Most of them said they liked the lands but they didn't like the new languages. I agree with them!
Overall, it was a good choice for a Book Club. It was a good length and the illustrations helped bring each land to life however, I wouldn't recommend it to the same age group to read alone unless they are very competent readers.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 1 January 2011
"Gulliver's Travels" is one of those books that is instantly recognisable by name. Unfortunately, of those relatively few people that have read it, many are only aware of the first section of the book (the visit to Lilliput), and even then they miss the bitingly accurate social commentary that is woven into the tale.
Swift was making some extremely harsh comments about the society in which he lived; and I would suggest that much of his satirical writing could be seen to be as accurate today as it was at the time of Queen Anne. Certainly I suspect that he would recognise a similar corruption in modern politics, the law, medicine and social behaviour that he knew and despised some 3 centuries ago.
The book is fairly easy to read; for best understanding, it would be worth doing so in short bursts and probably by re-reading sections. Some of the satire is easy to miss, such as the concept of the "low" and "high" heel parties, and the man who wears a pair of shoes that have one high and one low heel; he finds it difficult to walk the line between the two political views. In other cases, it is a belligerent statement of contempt, such as the behaviour of the "Yahoos" in the land of the "Houyhnhmm" (pronounced Winnim") and the comparison to human society.
The story could be read as a childrens tale of fantastical adventures and nothing more; but re-reading it later in life can reveal an amusing, albeit harsh reflection of human foibles.
Gulliver's first journey, to Lilliput, is the most well known and colourful, but perhaps the least reflective. Next comes Brobdingnag, a land of giants, whose area must be of - well - Brobdingnagian proportions! Then the flying island of Laputa, whose high-blown intellectuals employ 'flappers' to tickle their ears and mouths when their minds drift off into maths and music. Finally, the land of the Houyhnhnms, rational and civilised horses who use humans (Yahoos) as beasts of burden.
There is constant interest in our pleasant narrator's (and, separately, our cynical author's) observations on human nature, brought out by contrast and comparison with the strange societies Gulliver encounters. Swift's satire is witty and dry - very eighteenth-century. The writing often raised a smirk on your humble reviewer's face. Here our hero explains the unknown concept of soldiering to a Houyhnhnm:
"For these reasons, the trade of a soldier is held the most honourable of all others; because a soldier is a Yahoo hired to kill, in cold blood, as many of his own species, who have never offended him, as possibly he can."
Unhinted at in the numerous adaptations misguidedly aimed at children is the author's scatological bent - as when Lemuel extinguishes a fire in the palace of the Lilliputian queen by urinating on it. In any case, the book's reflections on politics, academia, war and so forth, would likely bore most young readers. (I would have welcomed the odd car chase myself.)
But for the grown-up, Swift's barbs sting even as they amuse, and I found myself drawn into empathising with our narrator's unhappiness when he must ultimately leave behind the one place he has found true civilisation, to return to us Philistines. Fella has a point.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 December 2009
Often considered a book for children,and adapted for the screen as such,Swift's work is a masterful satire on the mores,politics and society of 18th century Britain.You must not miss reading the original.
It is not Jonathan Swift's fault that the writing is archaic. This may be over looked if it was not so redundant and trivial. It can easily put you to sleep.
We all know that these stories are supposed to a thin veil for an agenda. Everyone from H. G. Wells to Ayn Rand hit you over the head with their agenda form the first. But no Jonathan rattles with 10 pages to describe what is in his pockets included his hidden pocket. (Who Cares?) And the book is filled with mundane descriptions. I think he is using this to flesh out what would be a 25 page manifesto. It is not until you get half way through the book that, with the exception of a few snide remarks about kings he finally coughs up his point.
"..., whether a private man's house might not be better defended by himself, his children, and family, then by half-a-dozen rascals, picked up at a venture in the streets for small wages, who might get a hundred times more by cutting their throats?"
He goes on to pick on just about all the politics and ventures of England at the time. Paranoid readers can see the parallels form the book and today's news. However if it is that important than dump Swift and just watch the news.
Anyhow it is not worth the time to read this book unless you are interested in someone that defecates at the end of his chain and dells about it in detail.