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

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

Length: 859 words (2.5 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
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.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"The Influence of Lucian's True Story on Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels." 123HelpMe.com. 16 Jul 2018
    <https://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=18761>.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay about Friendship in Oroonoko and Gulliver’s Travels

- The word ‘friend’ often carries vague connotations and assumptions that have no real purpose to the meaning of the word that is important here. Within the boundaries of a true friendship, the superiority of one individual over another should never be outward nor should one individual benefit at the other’s expense; also, an individual should not claim ownership over the other within a relationship termed a friendship. A relationship where an individual contains more power over another and asserts this power cannot be defined a friendship regardless of how kind each individual is to the other....   [tags: Oroonoko, Gulliver’s Travels]

Research Papers
1291 words (3.7 pages)

Gulliver's Travels – Innocent Nature Essay

- Gulliver's Travels – Innocent Nature I disagree that Gulliver is a naive narrator and therefore doesn't see a connection between knowledge and the acquisition of power. As R.Davis and R. Schleifer wrote, "Gulliver, gullibly suited like the rest of us, never quite understands the ... relationship between knowledge and power." There is a very close relationship between knowledge and power. With them being such important traits, each one seems to be included with the other. In Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathan Swift, the use of satirical writing on both the island of Lilliput and Brobdingang serve to make the narrator a gullible character therefore excusing critiques of E...   [tags: Gulliver's Travels Essays]

Research Papers
611 words (1.7 pages)

Essay on English Society and Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels

- English Society Exposed in Gulliver's Travels                In Gulliver's Travels, Swift takes us to many places that serve as a looking glass for the foibles of English society, but none of the places are as severe a censure of men as Houyhnhnmland. Here Swift has made a clear division of pure reason, embodied in the Houyhnhnms (maybe he was refering to "horse sense"), and raw passion, embodied in the Yahoos (which are "coincidentally" very manlike). Here Gulliver has to make the choice between Houyhnhnms and Yahoos, reason and passion....   [tags: Gulliver's Travels]

Research Papers
1211 words (3.5 pages)

Essay on Gulliver's change throughout Gulliver's Travels

- Gulliver’s change throughout Gulliver’s Travels Throughput the book “Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift, the character Gulliver changes many times. During and after part two and four of the book a noticeable change in Gulliver starts to occur. He himself may not see it but the reader sees it and ones attitude towards Gulliver might change due to Gulliver’s changes. Throughout these two parts, we see Gulliver as an adventurous man that wants to see everything that has been created in the world....   [tags: Johnathan Swift Gullivers Travels Gulliver]

Research Papers
922 words (2.6 pages)

Swift's Gulliver's Travels Essay

- Swift's Gulliver's Travels is without question the most famous literature to emerge from this 18th century Tory satiric tradition. It is the strongest, funniest, and yet in some ways most despairing cry for a halt to the trends initiated by seventeenth-century philosophy. In Book IV, we discover how Gulliver's journey into a discovery of what man is becomes a journey into madness. We encounter, here, a cruel attack on man. This is an attack using two of the most striking literary metaphors for man: the Houyhnhnms and the Yahoos....   [tags: Swift Gulliver's Travels]

Free Essays
1599 words (4.6 pages)

Satire in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels Essay

- Satire in Gulliver's Travels               On the surface, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver's Travels appears to be a travel log, made to chronicle the adventures of a man, Lemuel Gulliver, on the four most incredible voyages imaginable. Primarily, however, Gulliver's Travels is a work of satire. "Gulliver is neither a fully developed character nor even an altogether distinguishable persona; rather, he is a satiric device enabling Swift to score satirical points" (Rodino 124). Indeed, whereas the work begins with more specific satire, attacking perhaps one political machine or aimed at one particular custom in each instance, it finishes with "the most savage onslaught on humanity ever written,"...   [tags: Gulliver's Travels]

Free Essays
1941 words (5.5 pages)

Gulliver's Travels: An Altered Perspective Essay

- Gulliver's Travels: An Altered Perspective Jonathan Swift's ultimate satirical masterpiece, Gulliver's Travels, scrutinizes human nature through a misanthropic eye. More directly, it examines the bastardization English society underwent. The brilliant tale depicts the journey of Lemuel Gulliver, an Englishman, and his distorted encounters. Examining the prominent political and social conflicts of England in the eighteenth century, Swift's critical work causes much controversy. Gulliver's Travels leads him to places of opposite environments and presents him with different opportunities....   [tags: Swift Gulliver's Travels]

Research Papers
752 words (2.1 pages)

Gulliver's Travels - Satire Essay

- Gulliver's Travels - Satire Gulliver's Travels was written during an era of change known as the Reformation Period. The way this book is written suggests some of the political themes from that time period, including the well-known satire. These themes are displayed throughout Gulliver's Travels, and even sometimes reflect upon today's society. Many things in the book Gulliver's Travels prove that it was set in the Restoration Period. Some of the ways you can tell this are: the clothing, the speech, the governments, and of course, the lack of technology....   [tags: Gulliver's Travels Essays]

Free Essays
703 words (2 pages)

Gulliver's Travels Essay

- At first Gulliver’s travels comes off as a fantasy/adventure, but in actuality it’s a satirical commentary on society in Johnathan Swift. It starts off with Gulliver talking about himself. Later he gets shipwrecked and ends up in Lilliput, where the people are 6 inches tall. At first they think Gulliver is an enemy, but then realize he is no threat. He is taken to the palace and housed in a cursed temple. Gulliver is amazed at how silly the government’s rules are, for example to gain entry to the court the candidates must petition to the emperor....   [tags: Gulliver's Travels]

Research Papers
1017 words (2.9 pages)

Gulliver's Travels Essay

- As a seemingly wise and educated man, throughout the novel Gulliver's Tarvels, the narrator cleverly gains the reader's respect as a thinking and observant individual. With this position in mind, the comments and ideas that Gulliver inflicts upon those reading about his journeys certainly have their own identity as they coincide with his beliefs and statements on the state of humanity and civilization in particular. Everywhere Gulliver goes, he seems to comment on the good and bad points of the people he encounters....   [tags: Gulliver's Travels]

Free Essays
1289 words (3.7 pages)

Related Searches

  In the same vein, Swift seems to tell his reader each time Gulliver goes to the bathroom.  One of the most memorable scenes in Gulliver's stay in Lilliput is his "making water" on the Queen's palace to put out a fire.  In his subsequent journey to Brobdingnag, Gulliver describes the tendency of the giant women of the court to place him on their breasts.  "The handsomest among these Maids of Honour, a pleasant frolicksome Girl of sixteen, would sometimes set me astride upon one of her Nipples; with many other Tricks, wherein the Reader will excuse me for not being over particular."  Clearly, Swift followed Lucian's example of not tiptoeing around the delicate subjects when writing satire.

         Like Lucian's journeys to the moon and Lampville, Gulliver also travels to islands in the sky (Laputa).  Both authors take their satire to the ridiculous, Lucian often to mock other travel stories, Swift to cunningly cast aspersions on the things of England.  The moon holds one-toed frog eaters for Lucian while Laputa has the Flappers to remind the people to occasionally speak and listen amidst their intense intellectual thoughts.

        On the Isle of the Blest, Lucian encounters the important past figures of his day.  Gulliver has a similar opportunity to question the dead, and then subsequently mock or revere them as Lucian does.  Just as Lucian attempted to solve scholarly debates of his day by questioning Homer, Gulliver interviews Alexander the Great to find that he perished from excessive drinking rather than poison.  Gulliver praises Brutus, who Caesar himself admits did a grand thing by killing him.  Gulliver also speaks to Aristotle and Homer before moving on to criticize more contemporary leaders.

        The closer one studies both True Story and Gulliver's Travels, the more apparent the numerous similarities between the tales become.  Swift's intentions in writing his book were somewhat different than Lucian's, but Swift's style, ideas, and exaggerations owe much to Lucian of Samosata and his humorous journey.



Sources Cited

"Erasmus Text Project."  University of the South.  April 22, 2000.
                  .
Jaffe, Lee.  "Gulliver's Travels."  April 22, 2000.
Jones, C.P.  Culture and Society in Lucian.  Cambridge:  Harvard University Press, 1986.
Lucian.  Selected Satires of Lucian. Trans. Lionel Casson.  Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company, 1962.
"Lucian of Samosata. " The New Encyclopaedia Britannica: Micropaedia.  15th ed.  1998.  vol. 7
Marsh, David.  Lucian and the Latins: Humor and Humanism in the Early Renaissance.  Ann Arbor:   
                The University of Michigan Press.  1998.
Robinson, Christopher.  Lucian and His Influence on Europe.  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
                1979.
Swift, Jonathan.  Gulliver's Travels.  Oxford: Shakespeare Head Press. 1941.
Wegemer, Gerard. "Thomas More's Life."  April 22, 2000. .
Zappala, Michael O.  Lucian of Samosata in the Two Hesperias: An Essay in Literary and Cultural
                  Translation.   Potomac: Scripta Humanistica, 1990.
Return to 123HelpMe.com