Gulliver’s Travels

by Jonathan Swift, 1726

What a strange book! I didn’t like it! It is about a LOT more than just his journey to Lilliput. In fact, that is only a short portion at the very beginning. He ends up going to many other places – a land of giants, another place governed by a floating island, and a land that is ruled and led by horses, the Houyhnhnms, with whom he falls in love, but their land is also populated by a despicable human-like race called the Yahoos. He so despised these Yahoos, and they were so much like humans, that when he returned to England, it took him 5 years to even tolerate his wife and children: “At the time of this writing it is five years since my last return to England: during the first year I could not endure my wife or children in my presence, the very smell of them was intolerable, much less could I suffer them to eat in the same room.” Wow!

When he was in the land of the giants, these descriptions surprised me:

The Maids of Honour often invited Glumdalclitch to their apartments, and desired she would bring me along with her, on purpose to have the pleasure of seeing and touching me. They would often strip me naked from top to toe and lay me at full length in their bosoms; wherewith I was much disgusted; because, to say the truth, a very offensive smell came from their skins; which I do not mention or intend to the disadvantage of those excellent ladies, for whom I have all manner of respect: but I conceive that my sense was more acute in proportion to my littleness…The handsomest among these Maids of Honour, a pleasant frolicsome girl of sixteen, would sometimes set me astride upon one of her nipples, with many other tricks, wherein the reader will excuse me for not being over particular…

The book is mostly filled with him explaining to different foreign leaders the ins and outs of England – its government, religion, wars, education, etc. And always these descriptions make us end up looking bad and mad. Here is what one king said after hearing about England: “But by what I have gathered from your own relation, and the answers I have with much pains wringed and extorted from you, I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.”

Strange, disappointing book. Mostly because of the ending and how he was so disgusted with his own wife and children for so long after returning home. I am glad I read it, but it was depressing.