Sweating through Gulliver

by Andrea Elizabeth

Halfway through Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, which I’m listening to while I do Pysanky, I’m wondering why I’m not really enjoying it. The descriptions are very English field guide-ish and scientific, while maintaining opinions of various people’s likes and dislikes. Since Gulliver was a ship’s surgeon the focus on anatomy (as an aside, he thought the tiny Liliputions admired what was revealed by his tattered trousers, but when the tables were turned and he was the small one, he was disgusted by the huge female anatomy exposed during nursing. This was shockingly graphic.) is understandable, and while it is somewhat interesting to know of the practicalities of how much size matters and it’s baser consequences, it is not very entertaining or uplifting to me. Entertainment isn’t necessarily my goal, but I guess I don’t feel potty humor is very artful. Art is my goal.

Wikipedia gives helpful understanding as to some of the symbolism. “Much of the material reflects his political experiences of the preceding decade. For instance, the episode in which the giant Gulliver puts out the Lilliputian palace fire by urinating on it can be seen as a metaphor for the Tories’ illegal peace treaty; having done a good thing in an unfortunate manner.”

At least his action is meant as a criticism, though Gulliver doesn’t seem to feel it. It also seems steeped in human depravity as it was meant to “deflate human pride”. In another article, Wikipedia provides,

Published seven years after Daniel Defoe‘s wildly successful Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels may be read as a systematic rebuttal of Defoe’s optimistic account of human capability. In The Unthinkable Swift: The Spontaneous Philosophy of a Church of England Man Warren Montag argues that Swift was concerned to refute the notion that the individual precedes society, as Defoe’s novel seems to suggest. Swift regarded such thought as a dangerous endorsement of Thomas Hobbes‘ radical political philosophy and for this reason Gulliver repeatedly encounters established societies rather than desolate islands. The captain who invites Gulliver to serve as a surgeon aboard his ship on the disastrous third voyage is named Robinson.

Political studies is too steeped in dialectics for me, though I find it ironic that a political ordo is being described above. Like Crusoe, I must be an individualist.