Gulliver's Travels

Cultural influences

From 1738 to 1746, Edward Cave published in occasional issues of The Gentleman's Magazine semi-fictionalized accounts of contemporary debates in the two Houses of Parliament under the title of Debates in the Senate of Lilliput. The names of the speakers in the debates, other individuals mentioned, politicians and monarchs present and past, and most other countries and cities of Europe ("Degulia") and America ("Columbia") were thinly disguised under a variety of Swiftian pseudonyms. The disguised names, and the pretence that the accounts were really translations of speeches by Lilliputian politicians, were a reaction to an Act of Parliament forbidding the publication of accounts of its debates. Cave employed several writers on this series: William Guthrie (June 1738 – November 1740), Samuel Johnson (November 1740 – February 1743), and John Hawkesworth (February 1743 – December 1746).

Voltaire was presumably influenced by Swift: his 1750 short story Micromégas, about an alien visitor to Earth, also refers to two moons of Mars.

Swift crater, a crater on Mars's moon Deimos, is named after Jonathan Swift.

The term Lilliputian has entered many languages as an adjective meaning "small and delicate". There is even a brand of small cigar called Lilliput. There is a series of collectable model houses known as "Lilliput Lane". The smallest light bulb fitting (5mm diameter) in the Edison screw series is called the "Lilliput Edison screw". In Dutch and Czech, the words Lilliputter and liliput(á)n respectively are used for adults shorter than 1.30 meters. Conversely, Brobdingnagian appears in the Oxford English Dictionary as a synonym for very large or gigantic.

In like vein, the term yahoo is often encountered as a synonym for ruffian or thug.

In the discipline of computer architecture, the terms big-endian and little-endian are used to describe two possible ways of laying out bytes in memory. The terms derive from one of the satirical conflicts in the book, in which two religious sects of Lilliputians are divided between those who crack open their soft-boiled eggs from the little end, and those who use the big end.

Dostoevsky references Gulliver's Travels in his novel Demons (1872): 'In an English satire of the last century, Gulliver, returning from the land of the Lilliputians where the people were only three or four inches high, had grown so accustomed to consider himself a giant among them, that as he walked along the Streets of London he could not help crying out to carriages and passers-by to be careful and get out of his way for fear he should crush them, imagining that they were little and he was still a giant....'

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