Politics vs. Literature: an examination of Gulliver’s Travels

  • George Orwell


IN Gulliver’s Travels humanity is attacked, or criticized, from at least three different angles, and the implied character of Gulliver himself necessarily changes somewhat in the process. In part I he is the typical eighteenth-century voyager, bold, practical and unromantic, his homely outlook skilfully impressed on the reader by the biographical details at the beginning, by his age (he is a man of forty, with two children, when his adventures start), and by the inventory of the things in his pockets, especially his spectacles, which make several appearances. In part II he has in general the same character, but at moments when the story demands it he has a tendency to develop into an imbecile who is capable of boasting of ‘our noble Country, the Mistress of Arts and Arms, the Scourge of France’, etc., etc., and at the same time of betraying every available scandalous fact about the country which he professes to love. In part III he is much as he was in part I, though, as he is consorting chiefly with courtiers and men of learning, one has the impression that he has risen in the social scale. In part IV he conceives a horror of the human race which is not apparent, or only intermittently apparent, in the earlier books, and changes into a sort of unreligious anchorite whose one desire is to live in some desolate spot where he can devote himself to meditating on the goodness of the Houyhnhnms.


Worth Living Impossible World Good Book Biographical Detail Sweetish Smell 
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© Macmillan & Co. Ltd. 1967

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  • George Orwell

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