Gulliver's Travels

Frances Yue

When he wrote Flatland, Edwin Abbott Abbott created a work which has since challenged readers to think about dimensions. Although almost every reader can appreciate the mathematical inventiveness of the book, his contemporaries could probably enjoy the satirical elements of the work as well. Another author that epitomized the art of satire was Jonathan Swift, author of the classic, Gulliver's Travels.

There are many parallels between Gulliver's Travels and Flatland, particularly between the countries, Flatland and Laputa. Though the citizens of Laputa are almost human, they often seem two-dimensional. They are very accomplished in music and mathematics, but they lack other interests. They are so wrapped up in their own intelligent thoughts that they miss what is right in front of them. They must be roused from their thoughts by a special servant called a "flapper." For all their deep thoughts, the Laputans are remarkably ineffectual at doing anything. They have no appreciating for geometry and are unable to explain their complex directions for architecture to their workers. In some ways they are remarkably like the circles in Flatland, perfectly intelligent beings who nevertheless lack imagination or creative thought. The Laputans cannot appreciate what Gulliver could tell them, and the circles refused to listen to A Square when he talked about 'Upwards, not Northwards.' Perhaps these portraits of people who are not imaginative at all are a challenge to the reader to keep her mind open to all possibilities. .

Although some modern day readers may be offended by the treatment females get from both Abbott and Swift, they must remember that satire cannot be taken at face value. In any case. they both have similar depictions of the "silly, weaker sex." In Flatland, A Square describes says that women have been decreed to be "deficient and reason but abundant in emotion, they ought no longer to be treated as rational, nor receive any mental education." The males have to accommodate the unruliness of the females by building two separate vocabularies; what to the women they say is "love," they themselves call "anticipation of benefits." Women of Laputa are fight as well and lack the good judgment to appreciate the kindness of good men. After describing an incident about a woman who left her comfortable life for a horrible one, Gulliver comments that this woman may not seem so dissimilar from women of other countries. He says, "the caprices of womankind are not limited by any climate or nation, and that they are much more uniform than can be easily imagined." .

Satire is a medium that quickly becomes dated. Some humor is universal and can be funny for many years, but satire relies on knowledge of current events and situations. Episodes of "Saturday Night Live" from the seventies are lost on me when I see them in re-runs. The real genius of Flatland and Gulliver's Travels is that they can continue though the year to be appreciated as enjoyable and thought-provoking novels.