Gulliver's Travels: A Witness Exploration of Humanity in Search of the Answer to the Question Who Am I?by John Condon Murray
Gulliver's Travels explores the human need to create order out of chaos through an internal system of knowledge that affirms the subjective self. In this study, I examine how Gulliver integrates elements of knowledge from the native and the host-societies into an operative system of self-knowledge. Gulliver's self-knowledge threatens the status quo within these societies by placing him at the solipsistic center of the narrative, orchestrating his observations to maintain the subjective self. If Gulliver was successfully indoctrinated in England, then why does he exhibit such an imperfect understanding of the complexities that define the principles which shaped Western society? Furthermore, if Gulliver is brainwashed by his hosts, then by what authority does he continually transgress the rules of law that govern their societies? Specifically, why does he knowingly commit acts of disobedience and heresy if he has been successfully indoctrinated into their social systems? My study concludes Gulliver's empirical search for an answer to the question "Who am I?" fails because he is unable to harmonize subjective truths within the objective world.
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I am a graduate student at Columbia University. I recently researched a collection of critical works on Swift and found myself reading the same ideas over and over again. Murray's thesis is probing and insightful, and puts a new spin on a classic work of literature. The bibliography is well researched and served as a valuable reference in helping me structure my own paper.
In this study, John Murray examines Gulliver's Travels within the context of recent social constructionist theory. Murray evaluates the social and psychological implications of brainwashing within the context of the narrative. His thesis challenges popular theories of behavioral and ideological conformity by concluding that in spite of being socialized within the host-societies, Gulliver's decisions are his own. Gulliver's self-knowledge enables him to navigate an alternative field of choices at his own discretion, choices which, as Murray suggests 'differ from the expectations of his hosts, and which contradict the idea that he has been successfully brainwashed.' Murray's study is a valuable contribution to a growing corpus of modernist readings of Swift's Gulliver's Travels. Readers of Murray's lucid study will come away with a renewed appreciation and understanding of this literary classic.
This book is a must have for scholars and students alike. John Murray examines Swift's narrative within the context of recent social constructionist theory. Murray discusses the ideas of behavioral and ideological conformity in literature and society by setting up a paradigm for examining psychological stages of socialization. I have to admit that I have read quite a few scholarly works on Swift and found them leaving me with more questions than answers. Murray's book answers my questions thoroughly and provides insight on contemporary social theory. There is also a valuable bibliography in the book that should be of some help to students seeking reference material.