First, I would just like to point this out to anyone who is unaware of its existence:
Allow me to save you all 95 minutes and just tell you that itâ€™s Jack Black as a mail clerk who gets lost in the Bermuda Triangle and ends up in Lilliput. Hilarious (sorry, annoying) Jack Black antics ensue, everyone lives happily ever after, and I continue to use Netflix only for Breaking Bad and Community. Sound believable?
This brings me to Jonathan Swiftâ€™s narrative Gulliverâ€™s Travels. Swift starts by making his story plausible with the title itself. He could have easily given the story a name that would have implied a fantasy adventure, but instead he titled it Gulliverâ€™s Travels (or rather the original title of Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships) implying a historical or biographical context. Swiftâ€™s attention to detail in the introduction of the story also implies plausibility. Richard Sympson is the narrator that introduces Mr. Lemuel Gulliver as his â€œancient and intimate friendâ€ with â€œsome relation between us by the motherâ€™s sideâ€ (2491). The narrator goes on to explain the details of Gulliverâ€™s life including his place of birth, Nottinghamshire, and the place from which his family came from. This information is all given before the beginning of Chapter One in the story when the narrator changes to Gulliver himself and he then explains â€œmy father had a small estate in Nottinghamshireâ€ (2492). So why is it necessary to repeat irrelevant information? What the readerÂ doesn’tÂ consciously realize, is that Richard Sympson is our â€œmasterâ€ so to speak. He is the narrator that sets the story up and tells the reader exactly what to believe. Irrelevant information like Gulliverâ€™s place of birth and where he lives is included and repeated to establish it as fact. Sympson is no different than the Chorus of a Shakespeare play that sets the stage. We are told as an audience/reader that, this is who the players are, this is what is happening, and this is how youâ€™re supposed to feel about it.
When reading the beginning of Gulliverâ€™s Travels, I was reminded of a book series that I used to read when I was a kid, Lemony Snicketâ€™s A Series of Unfortunate Events. The way that the author of this series describes the events that take place, he establishes everything as fact; and itâ€™s made even more plausible by the real author using a pen name which ends up being a key character in the story itself. I unfortunately donâ€™t have a copy of the book that I can quote from, but the line in Gulliverâ€™s Travels that set off that reminder for me was, â€œwith the authorâ€™s permission, I communicated these papers, I now venture to send them into the worldâ€ (2492). Sorry if it sounds like Iâ€™m ranting to anyone whoÂ hasn’tÂ read that book series, just curious if anyone else who has read it got the same vibe.
Swift, Jonathan. â€œGulliverâ€™s Travels.â€Â The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. C. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2012. 2487-633. Print.