Finished reading Gulliver’s Travels Part 2 (better late than never)

I’ve been thrown a little behind schedule with the ‘new arrival’ at my place  (no, not a child, an iPad!), and  I’ve been spending all my free time lately exploring and playing with it instead of reading like I’m supposed to.  I did use it to read part 2 of Gulliver’s Travels, though, via the B&N Reader app. (I had downloaded a free version of Gulliver’s Travels to my nook® reader, and anything I’ve ‘purchased’ on that I can also access through the iPad (or iPhone).  Of course, the iPad with its touch screen makes highlighting (and notetaking) a breeze compared to the nook®.  Well, enough about that stuff you probably don’t care about.  Let’s see what Lemuel Gulliver was up to in part 2…

Gulliver’s wanderlust prompts him into another voyage (I learned this week that, at the time of the publication of Gulliver’s Travels, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was still wildly popular) and he ends up in yet another fantastical, undiscovered region of the Earth, where this time the tables are turned and he is the small, 1/12th size creature and the natives, Brobdingnagians, are the giants.  This change and juxtaposition provides more fertile ground for his satire.  He even quotes ‘the old philosophers’ saying that “Undoubtedly philosophers are in the right, when they tell us that nothing is great or little otherwise than by comparison.” (one other tidbit I learnt during this reading of Part 2 was that the microscope was a recent invention at the time and was becoming all the rage as people owned them and using them had become a hoby of many.  I guess one could argue also that the telescope was a recent (at least relatively so) invention as well, and these two ‘miraculous’ scientific advances, enabling the viewing of the very small and very far away probably added to the author’s inspiration).  More ‘gross-out passages’ were supplied by his tiny relative size, and descriptions such as describing the skin “with a mole here and there as broad as a trencher, and hairs hanging from it thicker than packthreads.” He also didn’t neglect his penchant for providing too much information on bodily functions, not to mention his ‘landing short’ when trying to leap over a pile of cow manure.  Enough already, Swift!  🙂

The adventures were, once again, entertaining and sometimes nail-biting.  His fighting and vanquishing the rats (!!) that crawled onto his bed with him,  his battle with the wasps and the annoyance of the “house flies” that wouldn’t leave him alone.  Can you imagine dealing with flies 12 times their normal size?  Not to mention the fact that he was so small allowed him to see ‘their loathsome excrement’ (again with the excrement!?) and spawn.

Gulliver was generally skilled in adapting to his unique situation, however, and often was quite diplomatic, careful to avoid making enemies (e.g. the son of his first master, and even the king’s dwarf felt his ‘mercy’ at times) where that would seem to be the ‘default’ result of some of his interactions.  At least in a couple instances though, his mercy was not evident as he “had the satisfaction to see the young rogue well beaten”, etc.

The King’s questioning him about the government of his native land provided the most transparent foil for Swift’s satire.  Many quotations from here are quite memorable, such as “My little friend Grildrig, you have made a most admirable panegyric upon your country; you have clearly proved, that ignorance, idleness, and vice, are the proper ingredients for qualifying a legistlator; that laws are best explained, interpreted, and applied, b those whose interest and abilities lie in perverting, confounding, and eluding them.” and,   commenting on reckless government spending (truly a timeless theme, I guess) “true, he was still at a loss how a kingdom could run out of its estate, like a private person.”

Again there were a couple classical references that I enjoyed.  Phaeton, the son of Helios, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus.  And once Gullvier laments, “how often then I wished for the tongue of Demosthenes or Cicero.”  I often point out to others that one of the reason I like the classics (especially the mythology) is that virtually all of learned Western Civilization in the interim between the Classical Age and today were also familiar with these same myths.  Swift clearly was, and if you ever read Shakespeare, you might as well have a copy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses handy…

Looking forward to Part 3 next week.  Now to head over to the other participants posts…


1 Comment

  1. June 24, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    I love seeing all the references to myths and other works in the classics too. It’s fun once you’ve read a lot of them and start making connections and get the references.


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