Gulliver’s Travels relates the adventures of Lemuel Gulliver, an English surgeon, who, in the first quarter of the 18th century, embarks on four voyages to unknown parts of the world. In each case, events beyond his control interrupt his progress: a storm at sea, the cowardice of his shipmates, the cruelty of pirates, and the treachery of his own sailors. He is stranded in Lilliput, a land of very small people; in Brobdingnag, a land of giants; in Laputa, Balninarbi, Glubbdubdrib, Luggnagg, and Japan, lands of scientific speculation and magic; and finally in the land of the Houyhnhnms, where degenerate humans serve as beasts of burden for a master race of horses.
A natural curiosity, courage, and linguistic proficiency allow Gulliver to master the customs of these various countries. A close observer, he minutely describes the appearance, size, and habits of the people and societies he visits, like an early anthropologist. Swift designed these exotic lands and strange characters to reflect the England of his time, but, at the same time, his satire strikes so close to human nature that it is as relevant today.