“Every man desires to live long, but no man wishes to be old.”
As a survivor of a shipwreck, Lemuel Gulliver encounters some entirely absurd things – at first, he is in the land of Lilliputians, the tiny men; but later he ventures to the land of the giants. The tale continues to oscillate between the extremes as he meets immensely wise and scientifically aware people before being faced with excessive self-preoccupation and ignorance. Whatever that societal order, Gulliver consistently is a witness to the abuse of power. The satire often overemphasises the contraries in order to accentuate our individual and societal flaws and proneness to being corrupt and biased. In such a distinct way it rebukes human narrow-mindedness and accentuates our subjectivity.
The novel’s multivalence has made it a celebrated children’s bedtime read – in particular, the first book – as well as a treasury of satirical metaphors and allusions that expose human and societal flaws in general and those of the English nobility in particular. The novel is an answer to Robinson Crusoe – it mocks Defoe’s protagonist’s too-good-to-be-true human aptness and reason. While some might find Swift’s modus operandi misanthropic, others will see him as a pragmatist who exemplifies how the excesses and polarities are detrimental and yet inescapable. Silly and bizarre, thought-provoking and alarming, this work is meant to be read and re-read as equally a jolly story and a philosophical or political collage of insights.