Below you will find four outstanding thesis statements for “Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in “Gulliver’s Travels” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “Gulliver’s Travels” in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: Compare and Contrast the Laputans and the Houyhnhnms in Gulliver’s Travels
Although there are many different types of societies that Gulliver visits throughout his travels, none contrast as strongly as the Laputans and the Houyhnhnms, each of them symbolizing an idea of a dystopia or utopia in Gulliver’s Travels. The Laputans are intelligent, however their knowledge has no solid base, and therefore, to Gulliver, no use. There has been infinite accounts of farming damage, architectural destruction and even the accidental impoverishment of the Laputans. The Houyhnhnms however, are animals that are rational to their very core. They turn away from vanity and entertainment and instead search out reason. The Houyhnhnms have no definition for the word “lie" and though they oppress the Yahoos, it is for understandable reasons. Look at this contrast between the Houyhnhnms and the Laputans as a comparison of rationality and emotion. What do you think Swift is saying about the emotion of fear and it’s motivation as a teacher? What about the concept of rationality? Which is a better way to live, emotional or rational? For more on this topic, be sure to check out the openly-accessible essay, “Realistic Utopias in Gulliver’s Travels” as it will explore these themes in more depth, especially in terms of how these societies operate.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Human Body in Gulliver’s Travels
Gulliver’s Travels is a novel about a man who has journeyed throughout the world and has experienced situations that many people only dream of. Despite his adventurous existence, Gulliver has a penchant for discussing bodily functions. From the river of urine that almost has him murdered, to the various references to excrement, Gulliver’s Travels, at times, has a very base focus. There is a definite juxtaposition of Gulliver’s learned behaviors and the basic human need to defecate. What do you suppose Swift is saying about those who are well traveled and posses the ideals of the Enlightenment? How does the human body polarize between spirituality and animalistic tendency?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Nature of The Truth in Gulliver’s Travels
Gulliver’s Travels is presented by Gulliver in the beginning as a true travel narrative, however, this outrageous claim is hard to believe, even in a fictitious world. As the novel starts, Gulliver is granted some credibility throughout the introduction and with the letter written by his friend that precedes the beginning of Gulliver’s travels. As the novel continues, Gulliver slowly begins to lose credibility with each further revelation of the people he has seen and encountered. By the end of the novel, when Gulliver swears his somewhat skewed Latin oath, the issue of his reliability has been raised and is of paramount concern. Does it matter if Gulliver is telling the truth about his adventures or not? As the action unfolds, there are various other references to lying; what does the author imply about the use of truth and the suitability of lies?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: Gulliver’s Travels and the Lilliputians
The Lilliputians are a device used to raise the issue of pride throughout Gulliver’s Travels. The Land of the Lilliputians is perhaps the most ridiculous of all the worlds that Gulliver visits. Filled with inhabitants the size of thimbles, the Lilliputians have more pride than common sense, and no one to correct their skewed vision of the world. In this, which is the antithesis of the utopia that Gulliver eventually encounters, they fight mercilessly with Blefuscu, over the simple matter of scriptural interpretation, and they nearly kill Gulliver for urinating on their castle to save it from burning down. However, as ridiculous as that pride may seem, their perceived strength goads Gulliver into submission. What do you suppose Swift is saying here about the power of thought and appearance? What about the issue undeserving pride?
* For more on “Gulliver’s Travels” and other works by Jonathan Swift, including “A Modest Proposal” visit the openly accessible Literature Archives at Article Myriad. *
This list of important quotations from “Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “Gulliver’s Travels” by Johnathan Swift listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for “Gulliver’s Travels” above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of “Gulliver’s Travels” they are referring to.
“My Father had a small Estate in Nottinghamshire; I was the Third of five Sons. . . . I was bound Apprentice to Mr. James Bates, an eminent Surgeon in London . . . my Father now and then sending me small Sums of Money. . . . When I left Mr. Bates, I went down to my Father; where, by the Assistance of him and my Uncle John . . . I got Forty Pounds, and a Promise of Thirty Pounds a Year." (53)
“He said, he knew no Reason, why those who entertain Opinions prejudicial to the Publick, should be obliged to change, or should not be obliged to conceal them. And, as it was Tyranny in any Government to require the first, so it was Weakness not to enforce the second." ( 170)
“My little Friend Grildrig. . . . I cannot but conclude the Bulk of your Natives, to be the most pernicious Race of little odious Vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the Surface of the Earth." (173)
“They go on Shore to rob and plunder; they see an harmless People, are entertained with Kindness, they give the Country a new Name, they take formal Possession of it for the King, they set up a rotten Plank or a Stone for a Memorial, they murder two or three Dozen of the Natives, bring away a Couple more by Force for a Sample, return home, and get their Pardon. Here commences a New Dominion acquired with a Title by Divine Right . . . the Earth reeking with the Blood of its Inhabitants." (341)
“My Reconcilement to the Yahoo-kind in general might not be so difficult, if they would be content with those Vices and Follies only which Nature hath entitled them to. I am not in the least provoked at the Sight of a Lawyer, a Pick-pocket, a Colonel. . . . This is all according to the due Course of Things: But, when I behold a Lump of Deformity, and Diseases both in Body and Mind, smitten with Pride, it immediately breaks all the Measures of my Patience; neither shall I ever be able to comprehend how such an Animal and such a Vice could tally together." (343)
“Nec si miserum Fortuna Sinonem Finxit, vanum etiam, mendacemque improba finget,” (341). [Translation: Nor if Fortune had molded Sinon for misery, would she also in spite mold him as false and lying.]
“Whoever performs his part with most agility, and holds out the longest in leaping and creeping, is rewarded with the blue-coloured silk; the red is given to the next, and the green to the third, which they all wear girt twice around the middle; and you see few great persons about this court who are not adorned with one of these girdles.” (77)
“The heat I had contracted by coming very near the flames, and by my labouring to quench them, made the wine begin to operate by urine; which I voided in such a quantity, and applied so well to the proper places, that in three minutes the fire was whilly extinguished, and the rest of that noble pile, which had cost so many ages in erecting, preserved from destruction." (92)
Source : Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver’s Travels. London: Penguin, 1967.