Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Lost Identity

J.R.R. Tolkein once said "not all who wander are lost." It is to be assumed, then, he was not talking about Capt. Lemuel Gulliver. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift is a narrative of the identity crisis. Capt. 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, "marooned" being an appropriate term considering his nautical adventures.

In his misplacement, an interesting identity-void is created; Gulliver has no way to define himself as a foreigner in a new society. The need to belong overwhelms him and he accepts any identity that is thrown his way, no matter how debasing it is. Through this void, Swift explores how society and politics systematically function to disassemble and reinvent the individual.

In each of the countries Gulliver traverses, he is isolated from a sense of kinship and alienated from acceptance, the degree of which increases with each voyage. This alienation and isolation...

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