What Influenced Gullivers Travels?

Oh, the fascinating world of literature! Today, we delve into the timeless classic that is “Gulliver’s Travels” and explore the influences that shaped this beloved tale. So, what influenced “Gulliver’s Travels”? Let’s embark on a literary journey together and uncover the captivating origins of this extraordinary work.

First published in 1726, “Gulliver’s Travels” was penned by the ingenious mind of Jonathan Swift. But what inspired Swift to craft this imaginative tale? Well, my dear reader, it is believed that Swift drew inspiration from various sources, both literary and historical, to create the fantastical adventures of Lemuel Gulliver. From ancient mythology to contemporary political satire, “Gulliver’s Travels” is a melting pot of influences that captivated readers then and continues to enthrall us today.

One of the significant influences on Swift’s masterpiece was the genre of travel literature, which was prevalent during his time. These accounts of real and imagined voyages to far-off lands fueled Swift’s imagination and served as a foundation for the fantastical settings Gulliver encounters throughout his escapades. Additionally, political and social events of the era, such as the Enlightenment and the rise of colonialism, also played a role in shaping the themes and satire found within the pages of “Gulliver’s Travels.” So, fasten your seatbelts and prepare to embark on an exhilarating exploration of the influences that birthed this literary gem.

What Influenced Gullivers Travels?


Gulliver’s Travels is a classic satirical novel written by Jonathan Swift. Published in 1726, the novel tells the story of Lemuel Gulliver, a ship’s surgeon who embarks on four extraordinary voyages to different lands. Throughout the novel, Gulliver encounters various civilizations and undergoes numerous adventures, providing readers with a rich tapestry of social and political commentary. But what influenced the creation of this iconic work? In this article, we will explore the factors that shaped Gulliver’s Travels and made it the timeless masterpiece it is today.

The Enlightenment Period

During the 18th century, Europe experienced a cultural movement known as the Enlightenment. This period emphasized reason, science, and intellectual curiosity. The Enlightenment thinkers questioned traditional authority and sought to understand the world through observation and rationality. Swift, who was a prominent figure in this era, drew inspiration from the Enlightenment ideals and incorporated them into Gulliver’s Travels. The novel serves as a critique of the flaws and absurdities of human nature and society, highlighting the need for reason and intellectual progress.

One of the key influences of the Enlightenment on Gulliver’s Travels is the concept of rationality. Throughout the novel, Gulliver encounters different societies that reflect various aspects of human behavior. By presenting these societies in a satirical manner, Swift exposes the irrationality and follies of mankind. For example, in the land of the Houyhnhnms, where horses are the rational beings and humans are portrayed as savage and irrational creatures, Swift challenges the conventional hierarchy of power and questions the superiority of the human race.

Political Satire and Social Commentary

Another significant influence on Gulliver’s Travels is Swift’s own political and social views. As a clergyman and a satirist, Swift used his writing to criticize the political and social landscape of his time. Through the character of Gulliver, Swift explores the corruption, hypocrisy, and moral decay of the ruling class. He exposes the flaws of human nature and the destructive impact of power and authority.

In the first part of the novel, Gulliver’s visit to the land of Lilliput serves as a satirical commentary on the political climate of 18th-century England. The petty conflicts and absurd rituals depicted in Lilliput reflect the political intrigues and power struggles of Swift’s own time. By exaggerating these aspects, Swift exposes the shortcomings of the political system and highlights the need for reform.

Religious Critique

Religion is another theme that influenced Gulliver’s Travels. Swift, who had a complex relationship with religion, used his novel to critique religious institutions and practices. Through the character of Gulliver, Swift encounters different religious sects and explores their beliefs and rituals.

In the third part of the novel, Gulliver visits the floating island of Laputa, where the inhabitants are obsessed with abstract theories and detached from the realities of life. This satire reflects Swift’s criticism of the intellectualism and lack of practicality in religious and philosophical debates. Swift highlights the importance of reason and practicality in religious matters, advocating for a more balanced approach to spirituality.

Social Injustice and Human Nature

Gulliver’s Travels also delves into the darker aspects of human nature and exposes social injustices. Through his encounters with different societies, Gulliver witnesses the flaws and vices of mankind. From the exploitation of the Yahoos by the Houyhnhnms to the corruption and greed of the ruling class in Brobdingnag, Swift highlights the inherent flaws in human society.

Swift’s critique of human nature is evident throughout the novel. He challenges the notion of human superiority and exposes the underlying vices that drive human behavior. By doing so, Swift encourages readers to reflect on their own actions and the societal structures that perpetuate injustice and inequality.

In conclusion, Gulliver’s Travels was influenced by a variety of factors, including the Enlightenment period, political satire, social commentary, religious critique, and an exploration of human nature. Swift’s masterful blend of satire, social criticism, and adventure has made Gulliver’s Travels a timeless work of literature. It continues to captivate readers with its thought-provoking themes and witty commentary on the human condition.

Key Takeaways: What Influenced Gulliver’s Travels?

  • Gulliver’s Travels was influenced by Jonathan Swift’s personal experiences and observations during his travels.
  • The political and social events of the time, such as the Enlightenment and the rise of colonialism, shaped the themes and satirical elements in the book.
  • Swift’s satire was influenced by the works of other writers, such as Lucian’s “True History” and Cervantes’ “Don Quixote.”
  • The scientific discoveries and theories of the time, like those of Isaac Newton, also influenced the fantastical elements in Gulliver’s Travels.
  • The cultural and societal norms of the 18th century, including class divisions and gender roles, are reflected and critiqued in the book.

Frequently Asked Questions

Gulliver’s Travels is a classic novel written by Jonathan Swift. It has fascinated readers for centuries, and many wonder what influenced the creation of this imaginative and satirical work. Here are some frequently asked questions regarding the influences on Gulliver’s Travels:

1. How did Swift’s personal experiences influence Gulliver’s Travels?

Jonathan Swift’s personal experiences undoubtedly played a significant role in shaping Gulliver’s Travels. As a clergyman and political writer, Swift was well-versed in the political and social issues of his time. His experiences in the political landscape, as well as his observations of human nature, can be seen reflected in the satirical elements of the novel. Swift uses Gulliver’s encounters with various societies to satirize different aspects of human society, including politics, science, and human behavior.

Moreover, Swift’s own travels and interactions with different cultures provided him with firsthand knowledge and inspiration for the exotic locations and imaginative creatures that Gulliver encounters. His experiences in Ireland, England, and Europe, as well as his exposure to different cultures and societies, allowed him to create a vivid and detailed world for Gulliver to explore.

2. How did political events influence Gulliver’s Travels?

Gulliver’s Travels was written during a time of political turmoil and upheaval in England. The novel can be seen as a response to the political climate of the early 18th century, with Swift using satire to criticize and comment on the political figures and events of his time. The political satire in Gulliver’s Travels is evident in Gulliver’s encounters with the different societies he visits, where each society represents a different political system or ideology.

For example, the Lilliputians and the Blefuscudians represent the political rivalry between England and France, while the Houyhnhnms and the Yahoos symbolize the ideals of reason and rationality versus the flaws and vices of human nature. By using these fictional societies, Swift is able to comment on the political and social issues of his time in a way that is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

3. How did other literary works influence Gulliver’s Travels?

Gulliver’s Travels draws inspiration from various literary works that were popular during Swift’s time. One notable influence is the genre of travel literature, which was popular in the 18th century. Swift parodies and subverts the conventions of travel literature by presenting Gulliver’s adventures as highly exaggerated and fantastical. This satirical approach to travel literature allowed Swift to comment on the limitations and biases of the genre.

In addition, Swift was influenced by the works of authors such as Lucian, Rabelais, and Montaigne, who also used satire and allegory to critique society. These literary influences can be seen in Swift’s use of satire and his exploration of human nature and society through the lens of Gulliver’s adventures.

4. How did scientific discoveries influence Gulliver’s Travels?

The 18th century was a period of great scientific discovery and advancement, and Swift incorporates these scientific ideas into Gulliver’s Travels. The novel reflects the fascination with exploration, discovery, and the natural world that was prevalent during this time. Gulliver’s encounters with the scientifically advanced societies of Laputa and Balnibarbi, as well as his observations of the peculiar creatures in the land of the Houyhnhnms, are influenced by the scientific discoveries and theories of the time.

Swift uses these scientific elements to satirize the obsession with reason and scientific progress, highlighting the absurdity of pursuing knowledge without considering its ethical and moral implications. By blending science fiction with satire, Swift creates a unique and thought-provoking exploration of the relationship between science, society, and human nature.

5. How did societal norms and conventions influence Gulliver’s Travels?

Gulliver’s Travels challenges and subverts many societal norms and conventions of the 18th century. Swift uses satire to critique the hypocrisy, arrogance, and irrationality of human behavior. Through Gulliver’s encounters with different societies, Swift exposes the flaws and follies of various social institutions, such as education, law, and religion.

By satirizing these societal norms, Swift encourages readers to question and reflect on their own beliefs and values. Gulliver’s Travels serves as a reminder that societal norms should be examined critically, and that blind adherence to tradition and convention can lead to absurdity and injustice.

Gulliver’s Travels Video Summary

Final Thoughts: Unraveling the Influences Behind Gulliver’s Travels

As we delve into the captivating world of Gulliver’s Travels, it becomes evident that Jonathan Swift drew inspiration from a multitude of sources, both historical and personal. This timeless tale, filled with adventure, satire, and social commentary, was influenced by various factors that shaped Swift’s perspective and fueled his imaginative storytelling. By exploring these influences, we gain a deeper understanding of the brilliance behind Gulliver’s Travels and its enduring impact on literature.

One of the major influences on Gulliver’s Travels was Swift’s own experiences as a traveler and observer of human nature. Having embarked on diplomatic missions and voyages across Europe, Swift encountered different cultures, governments, and societies. These encounters allowed him to develop a keen sense of social commentary, which is reflected in the satirical portrayal of the fictional lands visited by Lemuel Gulliver. Swift’s firsthand knowledge of the complexities and quirks of human behavior shines through in his writing, making Gulliver’s Travels a rich tapestry of cultural critique.

Another significant influence on Gulliver’s Travels was the political and social climate of Swift’s time. The 18th century was a period marked by political turmoil, colonial expansion, and scientific discoveries. Swift, a keen observer of these events, used his novel as a vehicle to express his views on power, corruption, and the follies of society. Through his portrayal of the absurd and exaggerated societies encountered by Gulliver, Swift offered a scathing critique of the political and social systems of his era, making Gulliver’s Travels a powerful tool for social commentary.

In conclusion, Gulliver’s Travels is a literary masterpiece that draws inspiration from a multitude of sources. Jonathan Swift’s own experiences as a traveler and keen observer, combined with the political and social climate of his time, shaped the narrative and themes of this iconic novel. By incorporating elements of satire, adventure, and social critique, Swift created a work that continues to captivate readers and inspire discussions on the complexities of human nature. Gulliver’s Travels stands as a testament to Swift’s genius and his ability to craft a story that remains relevant and thought-provoking centuries after its initial publication.

Back to blog