Gulliver's Travels: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

If you look up the book 'Gulliver's Travels' by Jonathan Swift, you will find dozens of adaptations. What makes this book so popular? Read this lesson to learn the story of this classic novel.

A Satirical Novel

Have you ever read a letter or seen a picture that was over 250 years old? Gulliver's Travels, a novel by Jonathan Swift, was written in 1726, more than 250 ago. Why is such an old book interesting to us today? Let's find out.

One element we will look for is satire, writing that uses humor and exaggeration to point out foolish or problematic things that people do. Swift was known for his satire.

Gulliver's Journey

In the novel Gulliver's Travels, Lemuel Gulliver is a ship's surgeon from England who takes four remarkable journeys to very unusual places.

After a shipwreck, Gulliver ended up on an island adventure.

Journey One: Lilliput

Gulliver is the only survivor of a shipwreck - his ship was ruined in a terrible storm. When Gulliver wakes up after the storm, he finds that he has been tied down by hundreds of tiny ropes. He is on an island where all the people are six inches tall.

The tiny people, called Lilliputians, take Gulliver as their prisoner, but eventually he makes friends with them. He helps the Lilliputians win a battle with a neighboring kingdom, Blefuscu, by capturing all of the enemy's ships.

Here's our first example of satire: the reason the two countries are at war is that they disagree on the correct way to eat an egg! Sometimes people fight for silly reasons.

Unfortunately, the Lilliputians turn against Gulliver. His enormous appetite makes feeding him expensive. The emperor is also angered when Gulliver puts out a fire in the palace using his urine.

The emperor plans to kill Gulliver, but Gulliver escapes to Blefuscu. He finds a boat his size, then sails home.

Journey Two: Brobdingnag

Soon, Gulliver goes adventuring again. After another shipwreck, Gulliver finds himself in a land of 60-foot giants. One giant takes Gulliver traveling, and makes him perform for money. Then the giant sells Gulliver to the queen of Brobdingnag, who makes him a house.

Swift inserts more satire into the story. Gulliver tells the king all about England. The king, whose kingdom is very peaceful, is horrified by the idea of war, guns, and gunpowder.

Gulliver quickly gets tired of being small and fighting giant animals. After two years in Brobdingnag, Gulliver's house is stolen by a giant eagle and dropped in the ocean. Gulliver is rescued and returns to England.

Journey Three: Four Unusual Stops

On his next journey, Gulliver finds four odd places.

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