Who are you calling Cheesy?
To bring Gulliver’s Travels to a close we discussed the book over Lilliputian foods dipped in fondue. And while the main course was cheesy, and basic, and bite-sized the conversation was not. In fact, most of the time I felt a lot like the banana that clumsily fell off my fork and into the melted chocolate – completely drowning in rich, delectable goodness, while I myself was a mushy mess.
Those ladies I read with know their chocolate and their literary discussions. I only know chocolate.
But here is what I did retain from the conversation: Perception. Or was with Perspective? Or was it Power? Or Poo? Or maybe Pride? Actually, it was all of those P words. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that Gulliver is sandwiched between Pilgrim’s Progress and Pride and Prejudice.
One of the tasks that we face after each book is determining how the author uses the beginning and ending to convey his message. In addition to offering crockpots full of cheesy and chocolately gooeyness Jeannette also pointed out that Swift ends his work with a lengthy diatribe against pride. Here’s the final sentence of the book:
I dwell the longer upon this Subject (pride) from the Desire I have to make the Society of an English Yahoo by any Means not insupportable; and therefore I here intreat those who have any Tincture of this absurd Vice, that they will not presume to appear in my Sight.
Here he seems to single out pride as the quality that he most opposes in human nature. Yet there are so many things that disgust him. It wasn’t until we started exploring them one by one that it was obvious that pride was at the root of many of these features. Like Power.
Jeannette also led us in a dizzying, yet delightful, discussion about Perception and Perspective. Gulliver began his travels in the land of the Lilliputians where his perception was one of greatness, both in size and importance, but in Brobdingnag he becomes the minuscule know-nothing. The difference in perception and perspective are again contrasted in his third and fourth voyages. Now, the definitions alone of perception and perspective are enough to make my head spin, so if you want to hear more about this enlightening subject you’ll need to badger Jeannette or Christine to write a post. Or two. I think there’s more than enough there.
Christine brought donuts, croissants, and apples to the table, as well as foreign languages, clothing, and a topic that is usually banned at most dinners and this blog. But in the name of Intellectual Pursuit I have lifted my Public Forum Ban to bring you this very important literary motif. Excrement. Certainly you’ve noticed it in this post, and this one, and this one. And get this, we even spared you a few of Swift’s more graphic depictions.
But first, to the foreign languages and clothes. Gulliver picks up the languages of the natives with great ease. In no time at all he is whispering in Lilliputian, shouting to the Brobdingnags, flapping the Laputians to get them to listen, and even whinnying like a Houyhnhnm. What does it all mean? Possibly that Swift just needed a tool to let us know what was happening at each location, or maybe it was a satirical attempt at showing us that understanding another culture takes more than the mastery of words and phrases.
Gladly, Gulliver remains clothed through most of the book. His clothes become a method of describing the differences between English culture and the new cultures in which he participates. They also act as a way of distancing himself from the Yahoo race.
As for the scatological motif, let it be enough to simply say, “Everybody poops.”
So, are you wondering what what I added to our lovely evening? I brought a hearty appetite, some banana chunks and insightful observations like, “Did you ever notice that Gulliver gets in ships and travels on the water a lot?”
Yeah, deep. I know.