When considering the book of Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, it is essential to remember that this is one of those works which raises far too many questions, rather than gives certain answers. Many people admit that the book “does not admit to easy categorization” (Smith 20). However, the majority of people still regard the book as a story for children (Zapata 65).
Admittedly, this is one of the most famous literary works worldwide which, naturally, inspired many people to make numerous versions of Gulliver’s story. Film versions of the story deserve special attention since cinematography is the most available source of learning anything. Notably, Hollywood created several stories which correspond to the existing stereotype concerning the book.
Gulliver’s Travels in literature.
One of the first commentators of the book, Lord Orrery, described Swift’s work as “a satire, an allegory, a series of voyages, a “moral political romance,” a “philosophical romance,” and an “irregular essay” (Smith 20). Nowadays the book
… has been described as a narrative satire, a picaresque tale, a novel, a political allegory, a travel book, a parody of the travel book, an imaginary voyage, a philosophic voyage, and as both utopian and antiutopian romance. (Smith 20)
Adult readers are sure that in Gulliver’s Travels Swift criticized many aspects of the contemporary society. However, the majority of readers have regarded the book as an adventure story and child or juvenile literature. Perhaps, Swift is responsible for such misunderstanding since in the Publisher to Reader the author hopes that the book will become “may be at least, for some time, a better entertainment to our young noblemen than the common scribbles of politics and party” (James et al. 294).
Nonetheless, people liked the story and the book was translated into many languages and, therefore, there are many versions of the same story. Admittedly, translator should be regarded as a writer which tells the story from his perspective, so any edition and translation of the book can be regarded as a bit different story which bears traces of the times when it was written (Real 59).
For instance, one of the versions of the book is “a free adaptation” of the first voyage of Gulliver “with many departures from the original” (Real 59). It goes without saying that many countries have Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels which are quite different when compared.
Screen versions of Gulliver’s Travels.
Admittedly, screen versions are characterized by even more “departures” from Swift’s story. It is necessary to point out that Hollywood versions largely focus on adventure rather than concentrate on eighteenth century’s society criticism. Notably, later versions picture modern concerns and ideas about contemporary western society.
In the first place, it is possible to consider two versions of the story. The first one is an animated film, Gulliver’s Travels (1939). This version can be regarded as a conventional approach to the story understanding. This is an animated film for children which focuses on adventure and funny dwarfs’ depiction. Admittedly, the first book of Gulliver’s Travels is the most famous and admired by children. This version tells a story of Gulliver omitting many details of the story but focusing on the major theme of friendship, love, and understanding.
The next famous Hollywood version of the story is the film Gulliver’s Travels (1978). It is similar to the animated film considered above. In fact, it is partly live-action and animated film. It also promulgates the ideas of love and friendship. It is also a good children film which is based on one of the most loved story.
The next screen adaptation of the story deserves much attention since it is not a mere story for children. The drama Gulliver’s Travels (1996) is quite close to the original version which focuses on concepts which are close to the contemporary viewers. Of course, the film is entertaining and even spectacular since this format is generally accepted by films producers and consumers.
However, the drama touches upon such issues as people’s ignorance, shortsightedness, pride, vanity, greed and meanness. Admittedly, the film is not concerned with criticizing eighteenth century English society, but it criticizes twentieth century western society.
One more screen adaptation of Swift’s most famous story to be considered is the film, Gulliver’s Travels (2010). This is one of those free adaptations which only take up basic points of the story and articulated their own ideas creating a brand-new story. The film depicts a story of the modern average man who has average problems at work and in his personal life.
Noteworthy, the film is quite overloaded with special effects which serve to created entertaining effect. The film producers also tried to convey their ideas and criticize certain aspects of the contemporary life. Thus, screen versions are also quite different from the original, though they have one thing in common. Apart from the fact that these versions use core points from Swift’s work, they reflect modern life and promulgate ideas which are valued in the times of the films’ production.
Modern society and the story of Gulliver.
It goes without saying that Gulliver’s Travels is known to the majority of children pertaining to western culture. People get acquainted with Gulliver in the brightest period of their lives, in their childhood, when everything is perceived through a joyful lens. Naturally, people tend to go back to happy memories and are eager to spend some more time with one of the most admired heroes from their childhood. Thus, many modern writers and film producers find their inspiration in Swift’s story.
These people often use the story about Gulliver to reflect the modern society. Notably, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels though written to criticize his contemporaries perfectly fits for criticizing modern societies. Basically, western culture did not change greatly since then, so many eternal issues concerning people’s behavior remain up-to-date now.
At present there are still many shortsighted people who are not ready or reluctant to except changes, just as in the times of Swift. Now writers and film producers want to promulgate ideas of good and draw people’s attention to their problems which are unworthy. The story about the traveler who acknowledged so many different worlds is the most suitable for this purpose.
On balance, it is possible to state that Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels is mainly regarded as an adventure story for children and juvenile. Its popularity throughout times led to its long life in literature and cinematography. Modern writers and film producers use the famous story to reflect and criticize modern society which is characterized by many imperfections, just as the society was in the times of Swift.
Gulliver’s Travels. Dir. Dave Fleischer. Perf. Jessica Dragonette and Lanny Ross. Fleischer Studios, 1939.
Gulliver’s Travels. Dir. Peter R. Hunt. Perf. Richard Harris, Catherine Schell and Norman Shelley. Belvision, Valeness, 1978.
Gulliver’s Travels. Dir. Charles Sturridge. Perf. Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen and James Fox. Hallmark Entertainment and Channel 4 Television Corporation, 1996.
Gulliver’s Travels. Dir. Rob Letterman. Perf. Jack Black, Emily Blunt and Jason Segel. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 2010.
James, Heather, James Patterson, Thalmann Meyer (Eds.). The Norton Anthology of Western Literature, Vol. 2. New York, NY: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc, 2005.
Real, Hermann Josef. The Reception of Jonathan Swift in Europe. New York, NY: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005.
Smith, Frederik N. The Genres of Gulliver’s Travels. Cranbury, NJ: University of Delaware Press, 1990.
Zapata, Jesus Varela. “The Lens Reversed: Methodological Approaches for an Ethical and Political Analysis of Gulliver’s Travels.” Revista de Filologia y su Didactica 25 (2002): 65-84.