First written in 1726, and altered in 1735, Gulliver’s Travels is a classic of social satire. Using the format of the set of traveller’s tales, Jonathan Swift creates in each scenario a single abnormal condition, which allows him to examine the weaknesses of contemporary British society. The book was instantly popular, and Swift’s friend John Gay wrote to him that it was ‘universally read, from the cabinet council to the nursery’. Many nineteenth-century versions for children omitted the passage where Gulliver extinguishes the palace fire at Lilliput by urinating on it.
As a political and scientific thinker H G Wells looked forward to humanity being able to break away from prejudice and oppression in favour of embracing its potential; Brian Aldiss proposes that this is why Wells admired Swift (Wells read Gulliver’s Travels as a teenager). By means of satire, Swift creates a clear view of the absurdity of human social structures, and shows the connection between people and animals.
There are close links between The Island of Dr Moreau and the island of the Houyhnhnms in Gulliver’s Travels. There is a two-layer society, where like the beast folk, the Yahoos are part animal part human; and like Gulliver, Prendick leaves the island under a cloud of failure.