Book Review: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

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After setting sail from England to the East, sailor and surgeon Lemuel Gulliver finds himself shipwrecked on an undiscovered island to the east of Australia. To his surprise, the inhabitants of the island nation are humanoid – but they barely reach 6 inches in height! Taken prisoner by the suspicious Lilliputians, Gulliver quickly makes himself useful to his new hosts, all the while commenting on the strangeness of his life in Lilliput, both physically and socially.

Unfortunately for Gulliver (but fortunately for the reader), this unusual encounter is far from the only one. Throughout his travels, Gulliver has the dubious pleasure of meeting curious creatures such as the crude Brobdingnagian giants who keep him for their entertainment and the slightly insane Laputians with their flying island.

During all of these adventures, Swift skillfully fulfills his main purpose – to expose the truth of humanity behind the façade of reason and rationality. To do this, Swift structures the satire sections of his novels as series of conversations between Gulliver and his hosts, from the little Lilliputians to the intelligent Houyhnhnms, using the reactions of the latter to present the reader with an uncompromising reflection of mankind.

The best example of this can be seen in the latter section of the book, when Gulliver attempts to convince his Houyhnhnm host that he is not a Yahoo, but rational like the horses. As Gulliver explains what human society is like, both for good and for worse, it gradually becomes clear that the Houyhnhnms are unable to comprehend the difference between him, a supposedly “rational” creature, and the stupidly violent Yahoos that resemble him, especially when discussing about the human propensity to lie as well as the devastating advancements in weapon technology at the time.

In this way, although Gulliver himself comes to no emotional realization or character development, Swift encourages the reader to alter their own perspectives on both themselves and the world around them, and to consider the state of humanity before proceeding to place it on a pedestal above all other creatures. Despite having been written in the eighteenth century, Gulliver’s Travels is still a beloved classic because of Swift’s masterful combination of fantastical elements and bitter reality in a way that is sure to stick with the reader long after Gulliver’s travels are concluded.

-Mahak M.

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Authors We Love: Mark Twain

Mark Twain - Wikipedia

Mark Twain (November 30, 1835 — April 21, 1910) was an American writer and speaker, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, whose pseudonym was “Mark Twain,” a term used by Mississippi River sailors to indicate the depth of water measured in a waterway.

When he was 12 years old, his father died, he had to stop school and go to the factory as a laborer. He worked as a pilot, miner and journalist on the Mississippi River. Gradually, he began to write some interesting sketches and began his writing career. Twain’s representative works include the novels “The Million Pound Bank Note”, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and so on.

Mark Twain is the founder of American critical realism literature. This genre was typical in novels, plays, prose, poetry and other aspects. In terms of content, his works criticized the unreasonable phenomenon or the ugliness of human nature, and expressed the strong sense of justice and concern for the common people. Stylistically, both the experts and the general reader agree that humor and satire are characteristics of his writing. He experienced the transformation from capitalism to imperialism in the early stage of the United States, hence his thoughts and creations were also reflected in the development stage from light humor to bitter satire and then to pessimism. In the early stages, he was good at bitter satire, but in the later stage, his language was more exposed and fierce.

The works of Mark Twain are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm is a novel written by George Orwell about animals who over throw there farmer and establish a new government. This book is known as a allegory. This is supposed to depict the Russian Revolution.

They have many similarities in the book like how animalism sounds a lot like communism. Communism is the government that was first thought of by Karl Marx. The idea consists of that every one is equal.

In the book the Farmer Mr Jones just treats the animals horribly. He never feeds them and often he just shoots them and orders them around. The animals decide they have had enough of this and overthrow Jones and establish animalism.

Now in the book the pigs took power and told the half witted animals lies and the most stupidest things that you could think of. Because of course that actually happened. The three main pigs in the book are Napoleon, Snowball, and Squealer. They represent Stalin, Trotsky, and Squealer was actually the propaganda Machine.

In the book he would win every argument because he knew Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. They are known as Ethics, Emotions, and Logic. He would use these in every argument in the book. When Squealer would say something he would win the dumb animals over to him and Napoleons side.

If you know your Russian History you can probably guess what happened to Snowball because he is Trotsky. There aren’t really any spoilers in the book because these events actually happened. But when you read the book you find at least some sentiment for the things that happened to people during the Russian Revolution.

The one fact that stuns people is that how dumb the animals are. I mean you would think that they would be a little more smarter but there not. They are just plain dumb. Another main part of the book was that it also showed other countries as farms such as England and Germany as Pilkington and Fredrick who represent the farmers.

-Max U.

Animal Farm by George Orwell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Mark Twain chronicles the experience of an engineer from the nineteenth century who goes back in time to King Arthur’s era in the sixth century. Hank Morgan, the protagonist, is bewildered at first to find himself in a strange land after taking a blow to the head. He is captured by a knight and taken to Camelot, where he makes the acquaintance of a page and learns that he is in the past. A series of events ensues, in which Morgan convinces everyone that he is a magician and secures a spot in the King’s administration for himself. Since he’s from the nineteenth century, he tries to modernize the sixth century to reflect his time period (which is probably easier for him than another person because he’s an engineer).

I found the beginning of the book to be a bit slow, but it started picking up near the middle. There are funny parts to it and other parts that made me mad at some of the characters. There are also sections that were excerpted from Le Morte D’Arthur, some of which I found difficult to read (the ones describing battles), and at times, Twain seems to be criticizing some aspects of the world he himself was living in, in the nineteenth century, like slavery. The ending was a bit ambiguous, but considering the nature of the story, I felt that it was appropriate.

-Aliya A.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Jane Austen’s first novel follows Catherine Morland and her innocent and trustful nature. A satire on the Gothic novels popular at the time, Austen accurately and amusingly generalizes  heroines, plots, and books in her narration. She also defends fiction (since at that time, reading novels could lead to negative judgment on a character reading them) quite eloquently and sensibly.

One of ten children and living in the country, Catherine has not seen much of the world. However, when her friends, Mr. and Mrs. Allen, head for Bath for Mr. Allen’s health, they invite her along. Upon reaching Bath, however, Catherine soon finds that she has no acquaintances there—which means, of course, that she’ll have to make some. Austen’s “heroine” lives through some scrapes during Bath and her visit to Northanger Abbey, some of which are the result of her newfound friends, others because Catherine, an avid fan of these Gothic novels, misinterprets some of her experiences at the Abbey.

Northanger Abbey is one of my favorite Austen books (along with Pride and Prejudice). Her friendship and conversations with the Tilneys provides very amusing reading, and her innocence in the face of almost (to me) obviously bad intentions on the part of some of the characters made her seem younger than seventeen (though her unearned trust of everyone can perhaps be explained away due to her never really been out in society before). In the end, though, Catherine does mature, as she is exposed to the truth about the behaviors of some people.

-Aliya A.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.