Gulliver's Travels


Jonathan Swift

Teachers and parents! Our Teacher Edition on Gulliver's Travels makes teaching easy.

Gulliver's Travels: Style 1 key example

Explanation and Analysis:

In Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift utilizes a deceptively plain prose style to conceal his biting critiques of English society. He often eschews overly flowery diction in favor of straightforward, detailed prose, which contrasts sharply with the novel's fantastical content. In terms of style, Gulliver's Travels shares many similarities with Swift's other works of satireLike the prose parody A Tale of a TubGulliver's Travels balances a playful and comedic tone with harsh criticism, while the novel's use of irony and shock value are reminiscent of the essay A Modest Proposal.

The style of Gulliver's Travels also establishes Swift as a master of linguistic fabrication. Some scholars have dismissed the novel's numerous invented words and phrases as mere nonsense, while others have argued that they follow coherent linguistic rules and may indeed be derived from real-life languages like Hebrew.

When it comes to the names of fictional locations, Swift also makes frequent use of anagrams, puns, and other linguistic jokes. The name of the flying city of Laputa, for example, is likely derived from the Spanish "la puta," which means “the whore," although it could also be a play on the Latin "puto," meaning "to think," or the English "put," meaning "a stupid fellow." All three possible meanings are in keeping with Swift's depiction of the Laputians, who are so obsessed with abstract concepts that they neglect practical matters, and whose women are hypersexual.