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SUBJECTS — Literature/Ireland; World/Enlightenment;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Peace/Peacemakers; Courage
        in War; Humility;
Age: 7+; MPAA Rating -- PG for thematic elements; Satire; 1996; 178 minutes; Color. Available from Amazon.com.

Description: Dr. Gulliver's travels among the Lilliputians, the Brobdingnagians, the Houynhynms, and others, are vividly portrayed in this made for television adaptation of the classic novel by Jonathan Swift. Written in the tradition of the "traveler's tale," the story shows the progressive disillusion of an individual seeking to understand whether man's corruption is innate or learned.

Rationale for Using the Movie: This film is a gripping and effective adaptation of Swift's classic novel and as such, successfully conveys many of his criticisms of Western Society. This version is especially noteworthy for its effective portrayal of the later portions of the book which are not usually presented to children.

Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Through class discussion and assignments at the end of the film, students will gain an understanding of satire as a literary form, the use of symbol in literature, and knowledge about the benefits of social criticism in shaping new attitudes. Students will be encouraged to add their own thoughts to the ideas promulgated by important writers.

Possible Problems: MINOR. A frame-plot about Gulliver's family and his struggle to stay out of a mental institution has been added to the original work but do not distract from Swift's themes.



Rationale and Objectives
Possible Problems
Parenting Points

Using the Movie in Class:
      Before Showing the Movie
      Discussion Questions


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

MOVIE WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following movie worksheets to keep students' minds on the film and to focus their attention on the lessons to be learned from the movie. Teachers can modify the worksheets to fit the needs of each class.

Additional ideas for lesson plans for this movie can be found at TWM's guide to Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories or Plays.


Before Showing the Movie: In addition to your standard introduction to Gulliver's Travels, ask the class to take brief notes of satiric scenes, events or characters shown in the movie. Tell students that there will be class discussion after the movie in which the class will make a list of satiric scenes, events and characters.


Discussion Questions:

After the film has been watched, engage the class in a discussion about the movie.

1.  Elements of Yahoo society are familiar to everyone. What do you see around you in the behavior of others or in the news that are similar to Yahoo society? Suggested Response: Answers will vary. The responses must not be mean spirited but should point out the ignorance that drives much of our society today. They will note how people seem uneducated, uncultured and unthinking, as in the Yahoo population. Students may want to give examples of Yahoo-like behaviors from their school or local community rather than the nation as a whole. All illustrative examples are acceptable.

2.  Gulliver's Travels was published in 1726. After its publication, Swift wrote bitterly about how human nature would never change. He noted that none of the criticism he wrote about was taken seriously and there were no changes in the way the society conducted itself. In what ways, if any, do you think that now, after over almost 300 years since its publication, society has improved in ways Swift may have appreciated? Suggested Response: Dr. M.L. King said that "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice" and, generally, correct answers will be optimistic. However, there is still much to criticize about modern society.

Here are some talking points both pro and con:
We're Less Yahooish there's hope after all: In 1726 there were no democratically elected governments existing in the world; today there are many and democratic government is recognized to be the best form of government. There is, in the modern world, universal suffrage, improvement in the lives of women, blacks, Hispanics and other minorities. Gays and lesbians are protected against discrimination and violence and in many places can marry. We have an active environmental movement. There is a growing movement of people seeking to correct the inhumane treatment of animals. While these movements have not brought as much change as many have hoped, they have pushed society in some good directions.

Internationally, Gandhian principles of non-violent mass action, as an alternative to violence, have become an effective way to change societies and governments. Examples are: U.S. Civil Rights Movement and changes in many governments, including the Soviet Union (Russia) in 1991 and many, many more. Human life is more valued. For example, in WWII, the Allies would take out whole cities in air raids killing tens of thousands of people in a day. Now, ten civilian casualties from a drone attack will cause a scandal.

We're Just as Yahoo as Ever, OMG!: Gluttony! We're undergoing an obesity epidemic. (Wouldn't Swift have fun ridiculing our society for the fast food, the overeating etc.) Shallowness! Our society is increasingly focused on consumerism and movie stars. Greed: Greed and lack of financial responsibility are on the rise to such an extent that in 2008 we allowed them to crash our economy driving millions of people out of work and no one was punished!!! We ended up bailing out the idiots who caused the problem and, except for a very few, allowed them to keep their jobs; all of them got to keep their multi-million dollar unearned salaries and bonuses. Destroyers of the Environment: We are over-populating the earth and destroying it: look at Gobal Warming and the Pacific Gyre/Trash Vortex. The Victim Complex: People see themselves as victims and avoid personal responsibility for their actions.
3.  [The purpose of this question is to develop a list, which the teacher can write on the board, of satiric scenes, events or characters shown in the film. Ask the class the following question and write brief 1 3 word indications of the responses on the board, until the class is out of ideas.] Give an example of a satiric image or scene from the film. In your example, show how Swift uses the devices of satire, such as exaggeration, name calling, reversing attributes, and changing a virtue to a vice. Suggested Response: Answers will vary.

For additional discussion questions, click here.


Any of the discussion questions can serve as a writing prompt. Additional assignments include:

1.  Research the literary tool known as satire and write an expository essay in which you define satire as a literary form and give three examples of satiric works that are well known in literature. Then show the devices of satire, used by Swift in his novel, such as exaggeration, name calling, reversing attributes, and changing a virtue to a vice, as they are presented in the film. Cite specific scenes.

2.  Explore the Internet to gather information that may explain why the hero of this story is called "Gulliver." Write an essay in which you define symbolism as a literary device and explain its role in literature. Illustrate your understanding of the term with three examples of its use in the film, aside from the name Gulliver.

3.  Write a new section into the film wherein Gulliver would travel to somewhere in your school, neighborhood or anywhere in your country, that would continue the satirical commentary on the behavior of the population. Use the narrative form, as if you were telling a story that a film maker could then convert to visual media. In your narrative describe action (including dialogue), reveal thoughts (including internal monologues), describe observations by the characters, use descriptive language (including images of people, places and things), and compare one thing to another.
To prepare for this assignment, have students complete TWM's Exercise in "Showing Rather than Telling" When Writing a Narrative. Also check out the Narrative Writing Lesson Plan.
For additional assignments, click here.


For English Language Arts classes, distribute TWM's Film Study Worksheet. Teachers can modify the worksheet to fit the needs of each class. Ask students to fill out the worksheet as they watch the film or at the film's end.

Click here for TWM's lesson plans to introduce cinematic and theatrical technique.

For suggestions about using filmed adaptations of literary works in the ELA classroom, see Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories and Plays.
Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

Are you concerned that time will be wasted if you are absent from class? Worry no more  .  .  .   Check out TeachWithMovies' Set-Up-the-Sub.

Parenting Points: The most important concept in Gulliver's travels is that our society is like Yahoo society in many ways. Remind your child of the Yahoo society shown in the film and tell him or her that Gulliver's Travels was written to try to correct the optimistic attitudes toward human nature that were popular when Swift was writing.

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

BUILDING VOCABULARY: yahoo, Lilliputian, misanthrope.

Last updated July 21, 2011.

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