Let me start off saying how much I love my Restoration Literature class! I mean, how could I not love a class focused on the literature produced when great authors were using satire to present how they thought their society should change. So far, we have read authors such as Rochester, Pope, and Behn, and are currently finishing Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. I had never read the book before, nor did I know what to expect from it, other than that it would be a social satire; let’s face it, it’s Jonathan Swift, the man that wrote about eating the children of the poor. However, I was not expecting it to be on the same level, or really even close to the same level, as A Modest Proposal after I saw the trailer for the movie that came out in 2010. I never saw the film, but it was a Jack Black comedy marketed towards children, which doesn’t really scream criticism of society’s faults.
Before we had to read the book, the movie began to play on the Premium movie channels, and I thought, like any other college student, that the movie may help me understand the book, or at least help me remember parts of it. Wrong, so wrong. I didn’t even finish the movie. I read a few chapters of the first travel (there are four total, also something I did not know about the book) and then watched the beginning of the movie. Thank you Hollywood for the random forbidden lovers plot! Seriously! Was it needed? No. Another difference to the movie is that the book has four different travels in it. Gulliver does not just go to Lilliput, but to other countries as well, where he is not just the giant compared to natives or smaller than the natives, but in another the natives are talking horses! Why didn’t Hollywood use that to gain more of a demographic because I am sure children would have wanted to watch a movie with talking horses.
Aside from the movie, the book was pretty good. The social satire in it was perfect! Jonathan Swift is a genius when it comes to writing with two voices (his and Gulliver’s), and he writes his descriptions of the British government and culture in a positive light while at the same time making them look completely ridiculous! By traveling to other countries, Gulliver makes you step out of the life you are in and look at it from a different point of view. A great example of this is in the second travel, after Gulliver, out of his kindness and desire to help the Brobdingnags, describes to the King what a cannon is and that he knows the ingredients for gun powder if the King wants it. However Gulliver does not get the reaction he expected:
“The King was struck with horror at the description I had given of those terrible engines, and the proposal I had made. He was amazed how so impotent and groveling an insect as I (these were his expressions) could entertain such inhuman ideas, and in so familiar a manner as to appear wholly unmoved at all the scenes of blood and desolation, which I had painted as the common effects of those destructive machines, whereof he said, some evil genius, enemy to mankind, must have been the first contriver.”
I loved this book! It was a little difficult to get through some chapters, and the language can be slightly difficult at some parts, but all in all if you want to read about the corruptions of mankind, this is your book. I wish I could tell you that from start to finish the movie was terrible, unfortunately, it lost me at the first unnecessary shot of Jack Black’s butt crack. I will probably never see the entire movie, unless you paid me to, but I will most likely read this book again, or at least one of the travels on it’s own.