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Helpful Background

Additional Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)

Additional Assignments

Other Sections:
      Bridges To Reading
      Links to the Internet
      CCSS Anchor Standards
      Selected Awards & Cast

Go to the Learning Guide for this film.

Helpful Background:

Gulliver's Travels was first published anonymously in 1726. A bitter satire of the society of the day, it was immediately popular. Unfortunately, a strong argument can be made that the failings of mankind and the ills of society to which Swift objected have improved only slightly during the 250 years since the book was written.

The Age of Enlightenment refers, approximately, to the century before the French Revolution (1789). During this period, advances in science and social theory gave rise to a faith in logic, progress, and technical achievement. There was a feeling that mankind was finally coming out of the Dark Ages. Newton's discovery of gravity in 1687 and of the laws of motion and of the calculus exemplify the type of important scientific discoveries that launched the Enlightenment.

The optimism of the age is shown by these lines from Jonathan Swift's good friend, the poet Alexander Pope (1688 - 1744):

All Nature is but Art, unknown to thee; All Chance, direction that thou canst not see; All Discord, Harmony not understood, All partial Evil, universal Good.... One truth is clear, "Whatever is, is right."
Swift sought to make a correction to the optimism of the Enlightenment. His goal was to reform society by showing the depravity of man and human culture. But some eight years after the first publication of Gulliver's Travels, Swift, again writing as "Lemuel Gulliver," added a preface to a new edition of the book. "Gulliver" first remarked that it had been a full seven months after the first publication of Gulliver's Travels. "Gulliver" continued, stating that while his editor and friends had prevailed upon him to publish the story of his travels "on the motive of public good," he had always thought:

... [T]he Yahoos were a species of animals utterly incapable of amendment by precepts or examples: and so it hath proved; for instead of seeing a full stop put to all abuses and corruptions, at least in this little island, as I had reason to expect: behold, after above six months warning, I cannot learn that my book hath produced one single effect according to my intentions: I desired you would let me know by a letter, when party and faction were extinguished; judges learned and upright; pleaders honest and modest, with some tincture of common sense; and Smithfield blazing with pyramids of law books; the young nobility's education entirely changed; the physicians banished; the female Yahoos abounding in virtue, honour, truth and good sense; courts and levees of great ministers thoroughly weeded and swept; wit, merit and leaning rewarded; all disgracers of the press in prose and verse, condemned to eat nothing but their own cotton, and quench their thirst with their own ink. These, and a thousand other reformations, I firmly counted upon by your encouragement; as indeed they were plainly deducible from the precepts delivered in my book. And, it must be owned, that seven months were a sufficient time to correct every vice and folly to which Yahoos are subject; if their natures had been capable of the least disposition to virtue or wisdom.


Additional Discussion Questions:

Continued from the Learning Guide...

1.  Who was Swift referring to when he wrote about the Yahoos? What traits do you share with the Yahoos? Suggested Response: The Yahoos are uneducated, uncultured, or unthinking human beings. We are all Yahoos to one extent or another. The trick is to be as little like a Yahoo as possible.

2.  For each society described in the movie, what ills in our society was Swift describing? Suggested Response: E.g., Yahoos: the insatiable need for more than enough and for sensual pleasure.

3.  Why couldn't the Houynhynms see that Gulliver was not a Yahoo? What was Gulliver trying to tell us with this literary device?

4.  If you were Gulliver, would you have been willing to abandon hope of returning to your wife and family to live with the Houynhynms?

5.  Do you agree with the Queen of the Brobdingnagians (it was a king in the book) that "I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth?"

6.  Define satire as a literary form and give three examples of satiric images or scenes from the film. In your examples, show how Swift uses the devices of satire, such as exaggeration, name calling, reversing attributes, and changing a virtue to a vice.

7.  Do you think that there is a reason that the hero of this story is called "Gulliver?" Explain the role of symbolism in literature.

8.  How did Gulliver change as a result of his travels? Did his view of wealth and its relation to happiness change?

Additional Assignments

Continued from the Learning Guide...

See additional Assignments for use with any Film that is a Work of Fiction.

Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions


1.  Swift defined a soldier as "a Yahoo hired to kill in cold blood as many of his own species, who have never offended him, as possibly he can." Do you agree with this definition? Remember that Swift wrote at a time when wars were usually started only for conquest or loot. Does this make a difference in your analysis? What about soldiers serving in each of the following wars: the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic wars; the Spanish American War, the wars against the Indians, the wars against Mexico, the Civil War (see Chamberlain's speech to the Second Maine deserters in Gettysburg), or the First and Second World Wars? What about the other side in those conflicts?

2.  Do you think that the failings of man and society described by Swift in his book have been corrected since Gulliver's Travels first appeared in 1726? Do you think, on the other hand, that we are just as bad as we were back in the 18th century?


No questions at this time.

Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)
(TeachWithMovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner"
and  uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical principles.)

Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.

1.  Evaluate the societies of the Yahoos, the Lilliputians, the Brobdingnagians, and the Houynhynms. Which of the The Six Pillars of Character do they honor and which do they not comply with?


(Be honest; Don't deceive, cheat or steal; Be reliable -- do what you say you'll do; Have the courage to do the right thing; Build a good reputation; Be loyal -- stand by your family, friends and country)


(Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule; Be tolerant of differences; Use good manners, not bad language; Be considerate of the feelings of others; Don't threaten, hit or hurt anyone; Deal peacefully with anger, insults and disagreements)


(Do what you are supposed to do; Persevere: keep on trying!; Always do your best; Use self-control; Be self-disciplined; Think before you act -- consider the consequences; Be accountable for your choices)


(Play by the rules; Take turns and share; Be open-minded; listen to others; Don't take advantage of others; Don't blame others carelessly)


(Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)


(Do your share to make your school and community better; Cooperate; Stay informed; vote; Be a good neighbor; Obey laws and rules; Respect authority; Protect the environment)

Bridges to Reading:

The first two chapters of Gulliver's Travels are frequently recommended for reading by or to children. The book is renowned for its simple and clear prose.

Links to the Internet:

Common Core State Standards that can be Served by this Learning Guide
(Anchor Standards only)

Multimedia: Anchor Standard #7 for Reading (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). (The three Anchor Standards read: "Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media, including visually and quantitatively as well as in words.") CCSS pp. 35 & 60. See also Anchor Standard # 2 for ELA Speaking and Listening, CCSS pg. 48.

Reading: Anchor Standards #s 1, 2, 7 and 8 for Reading and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 35 & 60.

Writing: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 5 and 7- 10 for Writing and related standards (for both ELA classes and for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Classes). CCSS pp. 41 & 63.

Speaking and Listening: Anchor Standards #s 1 - 3 (for ELA classes). CCSS pg. 48.

Not all assignments reach all Anchor Standards. Teachers are encouraged to review the specific standards to make sure that over the term all standards are met.

Selected Awards, Cast and Director:

Selected Awards:  1996 Emmy Awards: [All awards are in the Mini- Series/Special Category] Outstanding Mini-Series/Special, Best Art Direction, Best Sound Mixing, Best Writing, Best Special Effects; Best Hair Styling; 1996 Emmy Awards Nominations: Best Direction; Best Cinematography; Best Single Camera Production; Best Costume Design; Best Sound; Best Supporting Actress (Woodard).

Featured Actors:  Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, James Fox, Ned Beatty, Geraldine Chaplin, Edward Fox, Sir John Gielgud, Robert Hardy, Shashi Kapoor, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Phoebe Nicholls, Karyn Parsons, Edward Petherbridge, Kristin Scott Thomas, Omar Sharif, John Standing, John Wells, Richard Wilson, Alfre Woodard, Peter O'Toole, Edward Woodard, Phoebe Nicholls, Warwick Davis, Robert Hardy.

Director:   Charles Sturridge.

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