thumping the tub
Tub-Thumper - 1. A speaker or preacher who for emphasis thumps the pulpit; a violent or declamatory preacher or orator; a ranter. (from oed.com). This blog will be a combination of reasoned posting somedays and an occasional rant.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
NOT A CHILDRENS STORY
Due to a series of cartoons and a desperate attempt with Ted Danson, Gulliver's Travels has been ruined for a lot of people.

It is most vehemently NOT a childrens book. It is one of the most biting satires you are ever likely to read. If you haven't read it, put aside the rubbish versions and get to the real thing.

Jonathan Swift was not enamoured with the way in which the society (political, social and economic) of his time was organised. In Gullivers Travels he is attacking the basis of European society in the eighteenth century and its norms (or its aberrations that had come to be seen as norms). There are many instances in the novel where Gulliver finds himself explaining the foundations of government and society in Britain and Europe at that time. As his speeches about the beauties of a certain system are related to the various people Gulliver encounters in the novel he speaks in such a way that the complexities are decipherable to people with no preconceived ideas about what they are hearing. This means that we too find that we are hearing about ourselves in a different light.

These highly satirical passages include a wonderful lampooning of the legal profession,

"There was a society of men among us, bred up from their youth in the art of proving by words multiplied for the purpose, that white is black and black is white, according as they are paid. To this society all the rest are slaves."

Later, when cross-examined by the Brobdingnagian King (Lilliput is the small people place Brobdingnagians are the giants) he finds himself wishing...

"for the tongue of Demosthenes or Cicero, that might have enabled me to celebrate the praise of my own dear native country in a style equal to its merits and felicity."

Gulliver wants to prove the beauty of the Western systems to the King. After several eulogies about such things the King can only say that the system of government, which Gulliver believes encourages virtue (not Machiavellian Virtu), is in fact a filthy vice-ridden conglomerate where

"laws are best explained, interpreted, and applied by those whose interests and abilities lie in perverting, confounding and eluding them." This resolves itself with the most memorable "I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of odious little vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth."

Strong stuff for the time. Read this book, it is one of the best satires you will ever read and despites its misanthropy it is still right on the mark today.
posted by michael the tubthumper @ 4:41 pm  
7 Comments:
  • At 8:54 pm, Blogger JOS said…

    Yeah, Ted really ruined the story for a whole new generation of potential to readers. I'll have to go back and read it again sometime. Cheers, Michael...see you over at Mickey's.

     
  • At 7:01 am, Blogger GraemeAnfinson said…

    I remember watching Ted's version as well. I always remember it as a children's story. I will have to give it a read

     
  • At 11:00 am, Blogger a rose is a rose said…

    believe it or not, i have NEVER read gulliver's travels. i will do so after i finish what i'm on now.

     
  • At 2:31 pm, Blogger michael the tubthumper said…

    i just think because of the cartoon it is labelled as a kids book and its not fair. it is actually very savage.

     
  • At 7:34 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Gulliver (at least the cartoon version) is only a children's story in the same sense as The Hobbit was. Thanks for reminding me that the book is so much more. D.K.

     
  • At 1:19 am, Blogger Philip said…

    despite its misanthropy it is still right on the mark

    Because of, shurley?

    Speaking of Orwell, his essay on the Travels is one of the few times he was wrong (although being Orwell, he still managed to be interestingly wrong). He seems not to have realised that Gulliver at the end is not Swift's mouthpiece but still an object of satire - for claiming to be the thing he was not, i.e. a rational animal.

    I'm not sure, but I think the book was originally published anonymously because many of the attacks are directed more or less explicitly at England and the Whig government of Queen Anne. One of the few decent people Gulliver meets is a Dutchman which, since we were fighting th Dutch at the time, was probably close to treasonous. It's a tribute to Swift's genius that he managed to be scathingly topical and scathe for the ages as well.

     
  • At 6:31 pm, Blogger Delescluze said…

    The book was published in 1726 by which date Queen Anne had been dead for 12 years. Yes, Gulliver is far from being the mouthpiece of Swift [which indeed makes it a most interesting piece of writing]and, by Book IV is in the preposterous position of living in his stable with the supposedly ultra-rational horses. I think Swift believed that man was not a rational animal but an animal capable of reason, not all the time and not completely. It was one of the books which gave me the greatest pleasure to teach at A level, along with 'The Rape of the Lock', 'Our Mutual Friend' and 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' [excluding Shakespeare of course]. I agree that its 'children's literature' label is a gross misnomer.

     
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Name: michael the tubthumper
Home: Glasgow, Scotland
About Me: Tub-Thumper - 1. A speaker or preacher who for emphasis thumps the pulpit; a violent or declamatory preacher or orator; a ranter. This blog will be a combination of reasoned posting somedays and an occasional rant. 28 years old, I write and research for a couple of websites and also do my own stuff.
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I have made a few short movies. Here are links to free downloads for them all in the order that I made them (as far as I can remember). Please feel free to use, distribute, disagree with, shout at etc etc

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