SESSION 3 6/01

Gulliver vs Robinson Correct version

Gulliver’s Travels (1726)

by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

Summary of the extract:

Gulliver is left on an unknown shore, after being confined to his cabin for several days. In the distance, he sees animals with long hair, goatlike beards, and sharp claws, which they use to climb trees. Gulliver decides that these animals are extremely ugly and sets forth to find settlers, but he encounters one of the animals on his way. Gulliver takes out his sword and hits the animal with the flat side of it. The animal roars loudly, and a herd of others like it attack Gulliver by attempting to defecate on him. He hides, but then he sees them hurrying away. He emerges from his hiding place to see that the beasts have been scared away by a horse. The horse observes Gulliver carefully, and then it neighs in a complicated cadence.




1- Who / What do the narrators encounter?

‘several animals in a field’

‘creatures’ ‘ugly monster’

‘ a herd of at least forty’

‘ cursed brood’

‘a horse’

The narrator encounters / comes across two different types of animals. First a herd of wild animals which look like monsters and then a more civilized horse.

2- What do the ‘others’ look like ?

‘singular’ ‘deformed’

‘covered with a thick hair’

The creatures are ugly, hairy, deformed and disgusting whereas the horse is mild and disdainful.

3- How does the narrator react?


‘antipathy, contempt, aversion’ ‘I almost began to think he was speaking to himself’

He is surprised, intrigued and disgusted by the creatures. He despises them, looks down on them. He hits one with his sword then he hides under a tree and they poo / defecate on him.

He admires the horse and tries to stroke him but the horse refuses. He feels almost human.

4- What feels real? unrealistic?

the description of the creatures’ anatomy.

I walked very circumspectly, for fear of being surprised, or suddenly shot with an arrow from behind, or on either side. I fell into a beaten road, where I saw many tracts of human feet, and some of cows, but most of horses.

The description of the creatures is scientific and very precise, it feels like reading a naturalist’s diary. We can identify the creatures to some species of monkeys or squirrels but we don’t really know what they are. Also the names of the creatures are imaginary: Houyhnhnms and yahoos are complete fiction. The fact that both creatures are encountered in such a short time and with such powerful imagery is close to a grotesque. Wild and ugly monsters vs noble horse. The horse is the saviour, it inspires fear to the yahoos and admiration to the narrator.

The character of Gulliver is naïve and prejudiced. He’s a caricature of Robinson Crusoe.

5- Anything humorous or philosophical?

The whole extract is humorous in a way because the creatures are grotesque. It teaches us a lesson on view points and how things we perceive are relative. We are all someone else’s yahoo.

This extract seems to hint at different stages of man’s evolution.

Gulliver stands between the super-rational, innocent horses (the Houyhnhnms) and the filthy, depraved Yahoos.

Also the horse is observing Gulliver in the end, he looks down on him with disdain. There’s a reversal of situation. Maybe in the horse’s eyes, Gulliver is a Yahoo.

Robinson Crusoe (1719)

by Daniel Defoe (1660 – 1731)

Summary of the extract:

Robinson walks around the island, climbs up a hill and notices what he thinks is a boat. But he realizes he has forgotten his binoculars so he learns a first lesson: next time he won’t forget his binoculars. On his way down the hill he reflects on the presence of other humans on the island. When he arrives on the beach he finds remains of human bodies and what looks like the rest of a feast of cannibals. He is horrified, vomits, cries and reflects on his condition compared to that of the ‘dreadful creatures’




1- Who / What do the narrators encounter?

He finds a footprint and remains of human bodies. He doesn’t meet anyone.

2- What do the ‘others’ look like ?

They look like savages, beast-like creatures but we know they’re human.

3- How does the narrator react?

He is scared, disgusted, horrified, he vomits, cries and then he prays. He thanks God for not being like the cannibals.

4- What feels real? unrealistic?

The descriptions and monologue feel real.

The scenery and mise en scène, up/down the hill, everything is staged so that we follow the steps and discoveries of Robinson Crusoe.

The staging is dramatic and thus ‘unreal’, staged to create suspense.

The setting and cannibals are quite similar to real travel diaries of the time so there’s nothing imaginary or grotesque in this extract.

5- Anything humorous or philosophical?

Nothing is humorous. Robinson’s prayer and reflection on his civilized condition as opposed to the cannibals is metaphysical.


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