Gulliver's Travels has been popularized in movies, most recently starring Jack Black. Disney made an animated movie. Children have been reading the stories for years. However, Jonathan Swift's novel was much more than a children's story. He was a political satirist who used biting wit as his scalpel. He cuts to the heart of the darkest parts of society. In each land Gulliver visits, he raises a magnifying glass to a different aspect of real life, offering us a sharp, biting and sometimes distasteful view of ourselves.
Lilliput exposes small and petty politicians. Brobdingnag uncovers the largeness of both kindness and cruelty. Laputa cuts scientific arrogance to the quick. Balnibarbi demonstrates how silly it is to attempt to rearrange the natural world. Glubbdubdrib tells us that the history we know may not be the way it was. Luggnagg shows us the ludicrousness of desiring immortality. Finally, the land of the Houyhnhnms attempts to capture what a perfect world would be. In this perfect land cruelty and self-superiority exist, yet Gulliver sees only the rules and manners that mask the horrors. Gulliver's Travels is a satire that applies equally to our time, our politicians, our follies.
Gulliver's Travels is good fun. I have read it to my children many times. It is also, if you take the time to read it carefully, very thought-provoking. You will find yourself wondering how Swift, writing three hundred years ago, can sound so relevant today.
Review by John Arbuthnot in the form of a letter dated 5 November 1726
I will make over all my profits to you, for the property of Gulliver's Travells, which I believe, will have as great a Run as John Bunian (John Bunyon, Pilgrim's Progress).
... Her Royal Highness ... was reading Gulliver and was just come to the passage of the Hobbling prince, which she laughed at. ... Gulliver is in every body's hands. Lord - who is no inventor of stories told me that he fell in company with a Master of a ship, who told him that he was very well acquainted with Gulliver...I lent the book to an old gentleman who went immediately to his map to search for Lilliput.
Review by Alexander Pope in form of a letter dated 16 November 1726
I congratulate you first upon what you call your couzen's wonderful book, which is publica trita manu at present, and I prophecy will be in future the admiration of all men. That countenance with which it is received by some statesmen is delightful...
Review by John Gay in form of a letter dated Nov. 17, 1726
About ten days ago a book was published here of the Travels of one Gulliver which hath been the conversation of the whole town ever since. The whole impression sold in a week; and nothing is more diverting than to hear the different opinions people give of it, though all agree in liking it extremely.
(from The Writings of Jonathan Swift, 1973, published by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.)