Gulliver's Travels

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Gulliver's Travels Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift was born to a lawyer in Dublin in 1667 and attended Trinity College. He went on to be a politician’s secretary, a country parson, and a chaplain, all of which provided material for his satires about the political and religious corruption of his society. During his brief time in England, Swift, Alexander Pope, and others formed the Scriblerus Club resolving to write books satirizing modern knowledge. Gulliver’s Travels, Swift’s most famous work, arose from that resolution. Swift was also an outspoken advocate in favor of Irish liberty from England and Swift’s second most famous work, A Modest Proposal, satirizes tensions between the Irish and the English. In his later years, Swift is said to have become misanthropic and bitter. He died of a stroke in 1745.
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Historical Context of Gulliver's Travels
In the early eighteenth century, Britain’s political atmosphere underwent a dramatic shift. While Queen Anne sat on the throne from 1665 to 1714, the Tory party was in favor and dominated politics with their conservative agenda of minimized parliamentary power and increased royal authority. Yet when King George I took power in 1714, the dynamics shifted and the liberal Whig party, the conservative Tory party’s opponents, gained traction in English politics, pushing Tories out of prominence. One of these Tories was Jonathan Swift and parts of Gulliver’s Travels (especially Gulliver’s adventures in Lilliput) satirize the Whigs’ and Tories’ struggles against each other.
Other Books Related to Gulliver's Travels
Gulliver’s Travels satirizes the form of the travel narrative, a popular literary genre that started with Richard Hakluyt’s Voyages in 1589 and experienced immense popularity in eighteenth-century England through best-selling diaries and first-person accounts by explorers such as Captain James Cook. At the time, people were eager to hear about cultures and people in the faraway lands where explorers were claiming colonies for England. Many accounts were largely truthful, but even those that were generally honest were not immune to elaboration. In Gulliver’s Travels, Swift satirizes embellishing travel writers as well as gullible English readers eager for outrageous tales about other countries.
Key Facts about Gulliver's Travels
  • Full Title: Gulliver’s Travels, or, Travels Into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships
  • When Written: 1720-1725
  • Where Written: Dublin, Ireland
  • When Published: 1726
  • Literary Period: Augustan
  • Genre: Satire
  • Setting: England and the imaginary nations of Lilliput, Blefuscu, Brobdingnag, Laputa, and the land of the Houyhnhnms
  • Climax: Gulliver’s decision to reject humankind and try his best to become a Houyhnhnm
  • Point of View: First person
Extra Credit for Gulliver's Travels

By Gulliver, About Gulliver. Although contemporary editions of Gulliver’s Travels have Jonathan Swift’s name printed as author on the cover, Swift published the first edition under the pseudonym Lemuel Gulliver.

Instant Classic. Gulliver’s Travels was an immediate success upon its first publication in 1726. Since then, it has never been out of print.