It is convenient that our class discussion last Friday was about how and why Swift makes Gulliverâ€™s Travels plausible, because it is something I was thinking about when I first started reading the text. As a result, the part of the book that I have found most interesting, thus far, occurs right at the beginning of Part 1 when Gulliver describes how he came to be shipwrecked on the island of Lilliput. The description of the event is detailed enough that one can understand the situation perfectly, however Swift does not provide so many details that the passage would seem irrelevant or full of rambling, minute details.
Swiftâ€™s account, or rather Gulliverâ€™s, pulled me into the story right away, as I found myself questioning whether or not the shipwreck had actually happened. It may be useful to point out that I am one of those people who really gets into a story; for example, I found it difficult to walk around campus while reading The Hunger Games, as I was convinced that everyone was trying to kill me. Likewise, this specific passage in Chapter 1 of Gulliverâ€™s Travels had me right from the start.
Is it the writing style that makes it so believable? Personally, I really enjoy when Swift, or any author, refers to the reader directly, breaking the â€œfourth wallâ€ of the text. At the beginning of the passage I have chosen, which can be found on page 2493, Swift states that â€œit would not be proper, for some reasons, to trouble the reader with the particulars of our adventures in those seasâ€, and he follows with a description which is perfectly balanced between detail and comprehensive material. When Swift says â€œby an observationâ€ (2493), and â€œI cannot tell; but conclude they were all lostâ€ (2494), it feels like we are reading a blog post written by Gulliver himself, throughout which he is not sure of the exact details, but writes about what is important and what will make sense to the reader. For myself, this sense of colloquial discourse lends itself to a story that is more believable than one that is written with a more serious, precise tone. Not that I am trying to downplay the importance of facts and validity, but this language allows for a deeper understanding, in which the reader can utilize what the author has written, and further embellish these with more personal details that have been derived from those given in the text.
Perhaps it is the type of detail provided in this passage that makes it more comprehensive. Is it important that Swift includes that it was â€œthe fifth of Novemberâ€ (2493) when this took place? Is the number of people who had already died on the voyage a relevant detail? I do not see these details as the be-all end-all of the text, but they do make the passage seem more legitimate. Like I said before, it feels like a travel blog, in which the traveler writes about the big events, which make it exciting, and the smaller details, which make it more genuine.
I see this passage of the text as an important part of the story, as it introduces the reader to the type of language of all four parts of Gulliverâ€™s Travels. The story is already being set up to seem real, through both the language that is used and the details that are provided. Without passages like this one, I believe it would be hard to establish a connection with Gulliver, and the story would not seem as believable.
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. 2493-94. Print.