Gulliver’s Travels

Jonathan Swift
Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title  Gulliver’s Travels, or, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, by Lemuel Gulliver

author  Jonathan Swift

type of work  Novel

genre  Satire

language  English

time and place written  Approximately 1712–1726, London and Dublin

date of first publication  1726 (1735 unabridged)

publisher  George Faulkner (unabridged 1735 edition)

narrator  Lemuel Gulliver

point of view  Gulliver speaks in the first person. He describes other characters and actions as they appear to him.

tone  Gulliver’s tone is gullible and naïve during the first three voyages; in the fourth, it turns cynical and bitter. The intention of the author, Jonathan Swift, is satirical and biting throughout.

tense  Past

setting (time)  Early eighteenth century

setting (place)  Primarily England and the imaginary countries of Lilliput, Blefuscu, Brobdingnag, Laputa, and the land of the Houyhnhnms

protagonist  Lemuel Gulliver

major conflict  On the surface, Gulliver strives to understand the various societies with which he comes into contact and to have these societies understand his native England. Below the surface, Swift is engaged in a conflict with the English society he is satirizing.

rising action  Gulliver’s encounters with other societies eventually lead up to his rejection of human society in the fourth voyage

climax Gulliver rejects human society in the fourth voyage, specifically when he shuns the generous Don Pedro as a vulgar Yahoo

falling action  Gulliver’s unhappy return to England accentuates his alienation and compels him to buy horses, which remind him of Houyhnhnms, to keep him company

themes  Might versus right; the individual versus society; the limits of human understanding

motifs  Excrement; foreign languages; clothing

symbols  Lilliputians; Brobdingnagians; Laputans; Houyhnhnms; England

foreshadowing  Gulliver’s experiences with various flawed societies foreshadow his ultimate rejection of human society in the fourth voyage.