There are four main voyages in this book and I believe many are familiar with the first two, which are – to put it plainly – the Land of the Miniatures (Lilliput) and the Land of the Giants (Brobdingnag) . Both are quite exciting to read, as Gulliver’s unique size, whether too gigantic, or too miniature, poses a threat to his life in both places. Using his wits, Gulliver manages to secure an identity by taking on different roles that are complimentary to his physical size. He serves as a protector in Lilliput and an entertainer in Brobdingnag.
It is thought-provoking to note that his physical size remains unchanged throughout, but his roles vary in different situations. A leaf can be taken out of this, in the sense that for survival, we will have to be flexible to take on the most appropriate roles when situations arise, but not forgetting that our characters need not necessarily change. It’s a matter of perspective, not principles.
It took me long to get through the third voyage which consists of multiple places that are not as entertaining, for one thing there is no life threatening adventure, for another, it is a little too political. Perhaps the Augustans can relate better to this part, but I guess not so much for people reading this in this era.
Nevertheless, it is amusing to read that there are people who are so deep in thought that they have to be flapped constantly during any conversation so that their train of thoughts does not drift back to their little world.
Another weird group of people would be the ones who are so against right angles that they rather build everything without that, and at the expense of inconveniencing themselves. But sometimes, we also behave like that, to dislike something for the sake of disliking, or to object to an idea for the sake of objecting. It may sound silly, but I am quite sure everyone has some experience in that area.
The next point I would like to mention in this third voyage is that the author affects to some extent, my idea of an immortal. The popular notion is that an immortal enjoys a life of good health and youth that does not expire with age. In this part of the world, the immortal only gets to enjoy a life that does not expire, but has to go through the same aging process that inevitably comes with its share of “usual disadvantages”. Furthermore, communication with the rest of the society is hardly possible due to failing memories and generation gaps as there are very few of these immortals around. Imagine being left alone eternally in a world, where you can hardly communicate with anyone and having a body so old that there is basically no activity suitable for it. Scary, isn’t it?
The last part of the voyage is very engaging. In this Country of Houyhnhnms, mankind is not the most intelligent creature that rules over everything else. The most intelligent ones are the horses. Gulliver then takes on an honoured role to serve one of the horses. Although I find it somewhat disturbing that in the end he turns into a misanthrope, it is a refreshing concept not to have mankind as the leader of the world all the time. Speaking of which, this reminds me of the movie, The Avatar, where the protagonist in the end converts from a human into an alien, instead of a cliché assumption that a human form is the best choice. Perhaps this Houyhnhnm voyage could be adapted into a science fiction movie whereby mankind is waging war with alien horses. Boring, did you say? Oh come on, aren’t you still watching every Godzilla movie?