Gulliver's Travels: Gulliver's Identity Loss

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Spencer Shelburne British Literature I Novel Paper 12/2/11 Gulliver’s Lost Identity J.R.R. Tolkien once said, "Not all who wander are lost." It is to be assumed then that he was not talking about Capt. Lemuel Gulliver. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift is a narrative of the identity crisis. Captain Gulliver is indeed lost, both literally and metaphorically. He sets out on a voyage seeking a way to fulfill his identity as the financial supporter of his family, but once he leaves the structured society of England, his sense of identity is lost. At times, he does not even consider his family back home. He is misplaced in strange countries with strange inhabitants. In his misplacement, an interesting identity-void is created; Gulliver has…show more content…
The king wants to learn nothing of England's history, but rather asks Gulliver to focus on European mathematics and "received the account... with great contempt and indifference" (p. 120). In Laputa, Gulliver and his native society are weaknesses. The isolation in Houyhnhnm is the most acute, however. Gulliver cannot relate to them because they are not human - they are a superior species of horse. Nor can he relate to the repulsive and foul Yahoos who are human in an unrecognizable form. Spatially this isolation is manifested in the placement of his housing: "the master horse ordered a place for me to lodge in; it was but six yards from the house, and separated from the stable of the Yahoos..." (p. 175). Although Gulliver takes up acquaintance with the Houyhnhnms it is always understood that he is associated with the Yahoos, for whom Gulliver has affected a deep hatred. They teach him the language, yet "...looked upon it as a prodigy, that a brute animal should discover such marks of a rational creature" (p. 175). Gulliver's alienation here in the country of horses is vastly complete. Where then does this alienation and isolation leave Gulliver? He is in an identity-void, searching for any form of acceptance. Swift presents this as early as Gulliver's life in England. He lists his self-worth by his education and professional training, name-dropping as often as possible to give himself affluence: "He sent me to

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