The function of the 18-th century travelling:

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Eighteenth-century Literature
Prof. Dr. Sorana Corneanu
Maria-Cristina Stanciu
1-st Year English Major
Group 5

June 2009

The Function of the 18-th Century Travelling:
A Source of Musing or of Entertainment?

In Watt’s view, the novel attempts to portray all varieties of the human experience, and note merelythose suited to one particular literary perspective, moreover, its protagonists are presented not as types, but as particular individuals in the contemporary social environment[1]. The aim of my essay is to present the functions of that experience, in my case, the 18-th century travelling, in the English novels “Robinson Crusoe”(1719) by Daniel Defoe and “Gulliver’s Travels”(1726) by JonathanSwift, especially by regarding the Foucauldian view[2], which claims that the novel participates in the increasing regulation and disciplining of personality and consciousness.
To begin with, both novels have as a core feature, the travel, and both protagonists, Robinson Crusoe and Lemuel Gulliver, travel with a certain purpose: the first is in his years of adolescence and feels emancipated,wanting to go on sea voyages, by neglecting his father’s desire to become a lawyer; and the second is a surgeon, and in order to assure his family’s wealth, has to take different voyages to the sea. What the two protagonists’ stories have in common, among other things, is that both imply a shipwreck: while Robinson Crusoe arrives on a remote island, Gulliver goes on four separate voyages,remaining the only survivor of the shipwrecks and becomes for the four peoples he meets, a being that produces amazement.
The didactic function of the travel novels
Hunter[3] admits that all of Defoe’s major characters preach to us, and so does Defoe himself in his own voice, sometimes in counterpoint. […] he wants to affect his society, even straighten it out. Often,this function is associated with the idea of life as a journey and the providential design[4]: for example, Crusoe’s misfortune begins immediately after he runs away with a friend, without receiving his parents’ permission in this case Crusoe is associated with the Prodigal Son[5] or to the spiritual pilgrim[6]. Moreover, he often contemplates what it would have been like had he never wandered, hadhe not been saved from the shipwreck, or had the ship sunk with all its provisions, this making him become closer to God and to His teachings.
Regarding “Gulliver’s Travels”, “when the narrator tells the details of the ways of living of a certain society, Swift satirizes something wrong with the English society”[7], but at the same time this is a didactic presentation of historical events:for example, in Lilliput – 1. “by describing a society that chooses its highest officials with silly competitions like seeing who can jump the highest on a tight-rope, Swift is poking fun at the way officials are chosen in England”[8]; 2. “the war between the English and the French is parodied in the conflict between the Lilliputians and the Blefuscudians. Their conflict over which end of the eggto break reflects the centuries-old conflict over how to practice religion- as Protestants or as Catholics (In Swifts eyes, fighting over religion is as pointless as fighting over which end of the egg to break.)”[9]; 3. “Swift also parodies the political parties within England. The Tory party is represented by the Low Heels while the Whigs are represented by the High Heels. Considering that Swifthimself changed parties, he must have understood that political allegiance was important. Yet, political bickering is often about such unimportant matters as the height of one’s heels”[10].
So travelling to different parts of the world can bring didacticism both by musing on God’s design and also by satirizing different life aspects of certain societies. I will end this idea with...
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