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Gulliver & Bramble

The second book of Gullivers Travels portrays some interesting ideas from the time period. Although in the beginning of the book you may wonder if the story is part of an epic dream or nightmare due to the surreal nature of the text, the main part of the story really speaks to the idea of a social class structure and the grotesque society that was the 18th century. Many of the ideas that came to mind stemmed from the prior reading of Humphry Clinker. And although we did not read the first book of Gullivers Travels, one can imagine how exactly Gulliver’s circumstance was different.

First of all, the story begs at the idea that the people of the 18th century were unaware of what the world contained. Of course some of them were sea voyagers and had been across the Atlantic or down to the African coast, but for the most part the general European population could only imagine what kind of monsters you could run into on the open sea. Swift gets at this idea right away. But more importantly, the idea of cultured vs. indigenous people is very prevalent in the story as a reflection of what European people thought in the 18th century.

Gulliver differing in his sizes from large to small resembles how society views the higher or lower class. When small, he is enslaved in servitude to the enjoyment of the culture he is in. He is expected to work so hard at entertaining that he is nearly starved to death. He can only look back on the story of the first book from when he was the giant in a world of little people when he was looked up to as a god. This reminds me about Matthew Bramble from Humphy Clinker because he himself occupied two different statuses within the social structure. In the city he was forced to cope with the mixing and the residuals of society, and was uncomfortable with his status amongst others, whereas in the country he was at the top of the line and was able to create his own little realm of society in his home. Gulliver also draws parallels to Bramble when observing his surroundings in a magnified way. He sees the giant women that undress in front of him not for their feminine sexuality, but for their magnified imperfections. Bramble viewed society in the city as a vulgar state of living as opposed to the great things that humanity had accomplished.

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One thought on “Gulliver & Bramble

  1. Justin,
    Great post — and I am thrilled by the connections you’re drawing between Gulliver and Bramble! I think that the way you are conceiving of class perspective here is brilliant, and if you have the time, you might want to take a gander at Book One of _Gulliver’s Travels_ as it really serves to reinforce your case here.

    I also really like the way that each of these texts is a travel narrative in some way — Gulliver’s is very ‘international’, voyaging to the far corners of the world; Bramble’s is more domestic traveling to the edges of the kingdom. Both reveal something about how we as humans create reality and how we function in our worlds.

    You’ve really got my mind going this week — I can’t wait to hear more!

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