Gulliver’s Travels or Three Men in a Boat?

Dear Learners

You have a choice between Three Men in a Boat and Gulliver’s Travels in your supplementary reading. Now, the whole idea of supplementing your textbook, is getting you to read more. So, my suggestion is, read both the books. They are considered classics of English literature. However, I see no sense in spoiling your enjoyment of reading by examining you on both the books. Having read both several times in the past, I believe that Gulliver’s Travels (GT) is easier to write a test on than Three Men in a Boat (TMB) because the linear sequence of events in GT is easier to deal with than the back-and-forth in time narration in TMB. After reading both, you can select the book you wish to be examined on. We are willing to set questions on either / both, leaving the choice to you. I personally believe that the typical traditional test takes all the fun out of supplementary reading, the aim of which, mind you, is discovering the pleasure of reading. But we bow down to the superior wisdom of CBSE. We’ll try to mitigate that by adding some other literary activities that will maintain the joy of reading.

GT and TMB are both travelogues of sorts. It is customary to refer to them as ‘works’ rather than as books. I will add a short introduction to each work here that I hope will spur you on to read:

GT: Lemuel Gulliver is the hero of this tale who goes on four voyages, each ending in a shipwreck that casts him into one strange adventure after another in countries inhabited by dwarves, giants, mad inventors, civilised horses and ape-like humans! Gulliver, being unlike any of these creatures, has a number of adventures in every country he finds himself. Jonathan Swift, the novelist, was actually writing a satire on the politics, science and society of his time (18th century England). In fact, critics find that Swift was quite savage in ridiculing the faults of mankind. You need not go into all the links between English politics and society of Swift’s time and the events in the book. I think, you will find each adventure enthralling in itself, as you read.

TMB: Here, we have three heroes instead of one – J (the author), Harris and George. They decide to take a rowing holiday down the River Thames and the rest of the story is their planning and preparation for the trip and the trip itself. Their adventures on the boat are not numerous, but J narrates many funny stories of what happened to them and to people they know at other times and places. There is quite a lot of humour and irony in the narration. They make fun of themselves as they speak, as well. So, the savage satire of the previous work (GT) is here toned down to genuine laughter at the weak points of human nature. The setting is early twentieth century England, but there are references to famous historical events that happened on the banks of the Thames, as they cross these places in their boat.

As you read either book,keep making notes under these headers for every chapter:

  1. Major characters (Who?)
  2. Minor characters (Who else?)
  3. Location/s (Where?)
  4. Flowchart of events (What next?)
  5. Memorable sentences (Quote!)

From time to time, you may find questions arising on what you don’t understand. Please feel free to post your questions in Comments to this post (citing GT/TMB and page no.). I will respond.

Watch the spot below – I will regularly update this post with simple factual questions that you can answer in Comments. One point for the first correct answer to each question:

  1. When the narrator speaks using the pronoun ‘I’, then what is this mode of narration called? First-person narrative (Aneesh +1)
  2. Who is the fourth ‘hero’ of Three Men in a Boat? Montmorency, the dog (Malav +1)
  3. What was the name of the first strange place Gulliver was washed ashore at, after his shipwreck? Lilliput (Dhruv +1)
  4. Which river did the four companions row down on their boating holiday? River Thames (Gaurav +1)
  5. What was Lemuel Gulliver’s profession? Surgeon (Dhruv +1)
  6. Which was the only disease J thought he did not have? Housemaid’s Knee (Gaurav +1)
  7. Where was Gulliver lodged by the Lilliputians after he was first imprisoned by them? An ancient, desecrated and abandoned temple (Dhruv – the detail is important because it may indicate what the Lilliputians thought of Gulliver)
  8. Why was J so strongly against a sea trip for a holiday? He was scared of getting sea-sick 

RB told me that you (all students of Class IX) have collectively decided on Gulliver’s Travels as the supplementary reader to be examined on. The next step for you is: Complete reading Part 1 (Voyage to Lilliput) and Part 2 (Voyage to Brobdingnag) over your Summer Vacation.The supplementary reader is not meant to be explained in class. You may, however, post your doubts and queries as Comments and I will respond to them.

I will begin a fresh Page on this website with questions and other inputs on these Chapters. Please check the page regularly over the vacation.

Sanjukta Sivakumar


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