Imperfect Flowers: A Review of Gulliver’s Travels

gullivers travels

As my sister walked up to the piano, I drew out my sketchbook and began to draw. For their concert, both of my sisters had asked me to sketch them as they played.

“Very nice,” said a voice over my shoulder. I looked up, surprised.

“Thank you,” I replied. An old woman with silver hair was smiling at me.

“I sketch too,” she said. “But I only do flowers. That way when I make mistakes no one notices.” I felt a pang of sympathy as she finished her sentence. There are no mistakes in art! It only depends on your perception.

Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift, tells of the voyages of Captain Lemuel Gulliver. Gulliver makes four journeys, in which he is either shipwrecked, marooned, or driven off course. But thanks to these unfortunate events, he visits places inhabited by the strangest people. Each time, he comes home a completely different man.

On his first two voyages, Gulliver visits the lands of Lilliput and Brobdingrag (in the book it is spelled Brobdingnag, but Swift complains that the author made a spelling mistake). The Lilliputians are a tiny people, about six inches tall. Compared to the Lilliputians, Gulliver is a giant. In Brobdingrag, however, the situation is reversed. The people of Brobdingrag are sixty feet tall. When Gulliver comes home from both countries, he has changed drastically: bending down to look at people his own size after coming from Lilliput, and speaking very loudly after coming back from Brobdingrag. In opening his mind to a new world, his perception of the world changed.

On his fourth and final voyage, Gulliver goes to the land of the Houyhnhnms, a country where horses are the ruling species. While Gulliver is shocked at first, he comes to see horses as angels on Earth. They don’t even have a word for “lie,” and they have to use the unwieldy phrase “the thing which is not.” When Gulliver returns to England after several years in the land of the Houyhnhnms, he is repulsed by the human race. He cannot abide contact with other humans—his perception has changed once again.

Gulliver’s Travels is a quirky, ironic book. I feel sad for that little old lady who drew imperfect flowers—who knows if her perception about art would have changed if she had read Gulliver’s Travels?

Middle grade fantasy, ages 12-14.

You can buy this book here.

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