The Influence of Lucian's True Story on Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels

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The Influence of Lucian's True Story on Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels

Lucian's fictional and satiric travel dialogue, True Story, is a form that has been often copied over the centuries. Elements of his story, such as travel to the moon, inspired later science fiction. His presence in another world allowed Lucian and his imitators to poke fun at or question the things of this world, whether it be national heroes and philosophers, misplaced patriotism or the more subtle lies of contemporary writers. Beyond symbolism, social commentary and parody , however, Lucian's True Story allows the reader a humorous but interesting flight of fancy to undiscovered worlds.

Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels is one of the best known stories of European literature. Although the book is most often read as a children's fairy tale, the story is intended as satire. In fact, Swift wrote to his friend, Alexander Pope, that the book was intended to "vex the world, not to divert it." Swift comments on the wars of religion, and a myriad of problems with England, its leadership and its people. Many allusions can be caught by the careful reader, but many more through the passage of time and Swift's fabulous and incredible descriptions are lost to all but the most perceptive. However, Lucian's influence on Gulliver's Travels can't be missed. The authors attack many of the same institutions and use similar devices to satirize their world.

Lucian's diatribe against irresponsible and dishonest writers, is mirrored in Gulliver's Travels. Lucian describes how "lots of other writers have shown a preference for the same technique: under the guise of reporting their travels abroad they spin yarns of huge monsters, savage tribes, and strange ways of life." Gulliver excuses himself from writing down his adventures amidst the giants of Brobdingnag, by saying:

" ...That nothing could now pass which was not extraordinary; wherein I doubted, some Authors less consulted Truth than their own Vanity or Interest, or the Diversion of ignorant Readers. That my own Story could contain little besides common Events, without those ornamental Descriptions of strange Plants, Trees, Birds, and other Animals; or the barbarous Customs and Idolatry of savage People, with which most Writers abound."

Swift also borrows Lucian's emphasis on human anatomy and sex. Lucian describes sex with trees, men being hung by their penises, and other men using their member as a post on which to fix a sail.

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