Study Guide

Gulliver's Travels

by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver's Travels Summary



Summary of the Novel
In Gulliver’s Travels, Gulliver describes his four voyages. In the first voyage, he is the only person to reach land after a shipwreck. He awakes to find himself tied down by tiny men; these are the Lilliputians. A Hurgo (official) supervises them. Gulliver agrees to cooperate, and is untied and taken to the capital where he meets Lilliput’s Emperor. He agrees to serve the Lilliputians, and is granted partial freedom in return. Gulliver prevents an invasion from Lilliput’s enemy, Blefuscu, by stealing the enemy’s ships and is given a high title of honor. He makes friends and enemies at court and learns details of Lilliputian society. After putting out a fire in the palace by urinating on it, he is accused of high treason through polluting the palace. He is sentenced to be blinded and starved. However, Gulliver escapes to Blefuscu, finds a boat, sails out to sea, and is picked up by an English ship.

Two months after his return to England, Gulliver leaves on his second voyage. He lands in an unknown country to get water and is abandoned. A giant reaper picks him up (he is in the country of the gigantic Brobdingnagians) and takes him to a farmer, who wants him to be on exhibit as a freak. He fights a gigantic cat and other monstrous animals. The Queen of Brobdingnag buys Gulliver and presents him to the King. The farmer’s daughter, Glumdalclitch, who had befriended Gulliver, is hired by the King as Gulliver’s guardian and nurse. Gulliver quarrels with the King’s dwarf, but describes England in detail to the King. Gulliver is carried around in a box and tours the kingdom. He fights birds and animals and finds the King’s Maids of Honor, who undress before him, disgusting him because of their great size. Gulliver’s box is picked up by a gigantic eagle and dropped into the sea; he is picked up by an English ship and returns to England.

Shortly after his return, Gulliver leaves on his third voyage. His ship is captured by pirates, who set him adrift in a small boat. He arrives on the flying island of Laputa, which flies over the continent of Balnibarbi. The people he meets are interested only in abstract speculations. Their king asks Gulliver only about mathematics in England. Gulliver learns that the island is kept flying by magnetism. He travels to Balnibarbi, and he is shown the Academy of Laputa, where scholars devote all their time to absurd inventions and ideas. He then goes to Glubbdubdrib, an island of magicians. The king is waited on by ghosts, and he calls up the ghosts of dead historical characters at Gulliver’s request. He then goes to Luggnagg, where the Struldbruggs who have eternal life but not eternal youth. After spending time in Japan, Gulliver returns to England.

On his fourth voyage, Gulliver is set on shore in an unknown land by mutineers. This is the land of the Houyhnhms: intelligent, rational horses who hold as servants repulsive animal-like human beings called Yahoos. A dapple-gray Houyhnhm who becomes his master is unable to understand the frailties and emotions in Gulliver’s account of England. The Assembly is distressed at the idea of a partly-rational Yahoo living with a Houyhnhm, votes to expel Gulliver. He makes a boat and is picked up by a Portuguese ship. On his return to England, Gulliver is so disgusted with human beings that he refuses to associate with them, preferring the company of horses.

The Life and Times of Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift, dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, was a major figure in literature and politics in both Ireland and England. He was famous in his own time as a witty satirist of many aspects of life. He later became world-famous as the author of a children’s classic, Gulliver’s Travels, which was not originally intended by its author as a children’s book. He was born in Dublin to a well-to-do family partly of English descent, was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and Oxford University, and worked as secretary to the retired politician Sir William Temple. These other experiences acquainted him with the vanity and follies of leading figures in British life. Later, after difficulties in obtaining employment as a clergyman of the Church of England, he increased his acquaintance with fashionable society and acquired the tinge of bitterness that characterizes much of his literary work.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Swift (already a fashionable satirist), received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from the University of Dublin and began to write political satires. In 1704, having already published some widely-read political works, Swift became famous with the publication of The Battle of the Books and The Tale of a Tub. Other satirical works spread Swift’s fame to London, which he visited frequently. Swift was a major figure in the Tory party as well as a journalist and writer when, in 1713, he became the dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Anglican (Episcopal) cathedral of Dublin. As dean, he was assistant to the bishop, supervising the cathedral’s day-to-day affairs.

Although he never married, Swift had a long and close friendship with Esther Johnson, known to him as Stella, to whom the published diary called the Journal to Stella was addressed. After becoming dean, Swift met Ester Vanhomrigh, daughter of a wealthy merchant. He called her “Vanessa,” and they too had a close friendship. In 1723, Vanessa, hearing of Swift’s friendship with Stella, died.

Gulliver’s Travels, which Swift began writing by 1720, was published anonymously in 1726. Additional successful satirical works were written in the following years, but as Swift grew old, his health deteriorated. In 1742, after suffering several strokes, he was declared insane. He died several years later in 1745.

Swift’s numerous works, including articles as well as books, attacked many of the evils of his time, particularly political corruption and the oppression of the Irish by the English. His wit and satire attract, amuse, and educate the reader.

Estimated Reading Time
Three weeks should be allowed for the study of Gulliver’s Travels. Two weeks will be required to read the novel, reading four chapters at a sitting. The student should read every day from Monday to Friday. After reading the chapters, the student should answer all study questions in this guide to ensure understanding and comprehension. The essay questions may be used if needed. The fourth week is set aside for reports, projects, and testing as deemed necessary by the teacher.

Gulliver's Travels Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Lemuel Gulliver, the title character of Gulliver’s Travels, is a capable, brave, and educated Englishman whose unlucky adventures drive him to sickness and madness. His simple, straightforward way of telling his story suggests that he lacks the imagination to understand what he has experienced.

Gulliver is shipwrecked off the shore of Lilliput and captured by humans only six inches tall. Practical man that he is, he promises to obey their laws controlling him. He finds Lilliput, not unlike Europe, in a state of perpetual and petty disorder. Low-heelers and High-heelers squabble over politics much as do the Whigs and Tories of Swift’s day. Courtiers compete for distinctions by leaping over sticks and other such ridiculous games. Protestants and Catholics are mirrored as Big-enders and Little-enders, who cannot agree on which end of the egg should be cracked first. The war between England and France is parodied in the conflict between Lilliput and its neighbor Blefuscu. Gulliver becomes a hero by wading into the surf and carrying off the tiny Blefuscan navy. When he puts out a fire in the palace by urinating on it, he falls from favor at court and joins the Blefuscans, who help him salvage the wrecked ship in which he makes his escape.

Gulliver’s next voyage takes him to Brobdingnag, the opposite of Lilliput. Proportions are reversed. People stand as tall as steeples. Gulliver is a caged pet exhibited as a freak. The queen buys him and brings him to court, where he is imperiled by the lewd curiosity of the ladies, by a dwarf who nearly drowns him in a bowl of cream, and by a monkey who almost dashes his brains out.

Yet Brobdingnagian society is a utopia, based on useful studies of poetry and history, not on metaphysics, theology, and speculative science, as in Europe. The king rules a prosperous state not torn by strife. In Brobdingnag, a law cannot be written using more than twenty-two words, and to comment on laws is a capital crime. Horrified by Gulliver’s description of England’s government, the king concludes that Englishmen must be “the most pernicious Race of little odious Vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the Surface of the Earth.”

His third voyage, to Laputa and other islands, is the most fantastic of them all. Gulliver finds himself on the airborne island of Laputa. Its people are devoid of practicality, so lost in abstraction that servants must flap their mouths and ears with inflated bladders to keep their minds on conversations. Though bent upon music, mathematics, and astronomy, they lack reason and cannot construct walls perpendicular to the floor. The monarch is proud of his dominion over the island of Balnibari below. Any mutiny can be literally crushed by dropping Laputa upon it, smashing whole towns. Yet the monarch is reluctant to use this power for fear of cracking Laputa, and, besides, Laputians own country estates on the nether island. Swift here satirizes England’s dominion over Ireland.

At the Academy of Lagado, Gulliver witnesses the absurdities of misapplied scholarship. There, the projectors experiment with building houses from the top down, making pillows out of marble, extracting sunshine from cucumbers, and the like. He visits nearby Glubbdubdrib, where the governor by sorcery summons dead persons back to life for a day. Gulliver thus meets with Alexander the Great, Homer, Aristotle, and René Descartes, who admits his philosophy is confounded conjecture. In Luggnagg, Gulliver views the ghastly spectacle of human immortality. The wretched Struldbrugs live forever, not in perpetual youth but in unending decay. From there, Gulliver makes a short trip to Japan, and thence back to England.

Gulliver leaves behind a pregnant wife to make his final journey to a land ruled by intelligent horses, called Houyhnhnms. These purely rational creatures know neither pride nor passion. Without love or lust, they procreate merely to meet a social obligation. They live in stoical calm, without government and without crime. They are served by a despised underclass of Yahoos, depraved, libidinous creatures quite unlike themselves but strongly resembling humans. Gulliver shares the Houyhnhnms’ disgust and disdain for them. When a lusty Yahoo woman tries to embrace him, he is repulsed. The Houyhnhnms, however, decide that Gulliver must live as a Yahoo or else leave, so he departs on a Portuguese ship with Captain Pedro de Mendez. Still, Gulliver cannot bear the smell of the captain and crew. He shuns their civilities and tries to jump overboard. He arrives in England only under shackles. Now too proud to associate with humans, whom he sees as Yahoos, Gulliver faints when his wife kisses him, and he abandons his family to consort with horses at pasture.

Gulliver himself has become the object of the satire, for he has lost all reason and proportion. The very Houyhnhnms he so admires do him the greatest wrong, but he scorns humanity with irrational pride. Having seen him from so many different perspectives, a reader recognizes that Gulliver’s weaknesses are those of humankind.

Gulliver's Travels Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Lemuel Gulliver, a physician, takes the post of ship’s doctor on the Antelope, which sets sail from Bristol for the South Seas in May, 1699. When the ship is wrecked in a storm somewhere near Tasmania, Gulliver has to swim for his life. Wind and tide help to carry him close to a low-lying shore, where he falls, exhausted, into a deep sleep. Upon awakening, he finds himself held to the ground by hundreds of small ropes. He soon discovers that he is the prisoner of humans six inches tall. Still tied, Gulliver is fed by his captors; then he is placed on a special wagon built for the purpose and drawn by fifteen hundred small horses. Carried in this manner to the capital city of the small humans, he is exhibited as a great curiosity to the people of Lilliput, as the land of the diminutive people is called. He is kept chained to a huge Lilliputian building into which he crawls at night to sleep.

Gulliver soon learns the Lilliputian language, and through his personal charm and natural curiosity, he comes into good graces at the royal court. At length, he is given his freedom, contingent upon his obeying many rules devised by the emperor prescribing his deportment in Lilliput. Now free, Gulliver tours Mildendo, the capital city, and finds it to be similar, except in size, to European cities of the time.

Learning that Lilliput is in danger of an invasion by the forces of the neighboring empire, Blefuscu, he offers his services to the emperor of Lilliput. While the enemy fleet awaits favorable winds to carry their ships the eight hundred yards between Blefuscu and Lilliput, Gulliver takes some Lilliputian cable, wades to Blefuscu, and brings back the entire fleet by means of hooks attached to the cables. He is greeted with great acclaim, and the emperor makes him a nobleman. Soon, however, the emperor and Gulliver quarrel over differences concerning the fate of the now helpless Blefuscu. The emperor wants to reduce the enemy to the status of slaves; Gulliver champions their liberty. The pro-Gulliver forces prevail in the Lilliputian parliament; the peace settlement is favorable to Blefuscu. Gulliver, however, is now in disfavor at court.

He visits Blefuscu, where he is received graciously by the emperor and the people. One day, while exploring, he finds a boat from a wreck washed ashore. With the help of thousands of Blefuscu artisans, he repairs the boat for his projected voyage back to his own civilization. Taking some cattle and sheep with him, he sails away and is eventually picked up by an English vessel.

Back in England, Gulliver spends a short time with his family before he boards the Adventure, bound for India. The ship is blown off course by fierce winds. Somewhere on the coast of Great Tartary a landing party goes ashore to forage for supplies. Gulliver, who wandered away from the party, is left behind when a gigantic human figure pursues the sailors back to the ship. Gulliver is caught in a field by giants threshing grain that grows forty feet high. Becoming the pet of a farmer and his family, he amuses them with his humanlike behavior. The farmer’s nine-year-old daughter, who is not yet over forty feet high, takes special charge of Gulliver.

The farmer displays Gulliver first at a local market town. Then he takes his little pet to the metropolis, where Gulliver is put on show repeatedly, to the great detriment of his health. The farmer, seeing that Gulliver is near death from overwork, sells him to the queen, who takes a great fancy to the little curiosity. The court doctors and philosophers study Gulliver as a quaint trick of nature. He subsequently has adventures with giant rats the size of lions, with a dwarf thirty feet high, with wasps as large as partridges, with apples the size of Bristol barrels, and with hailstones the size of tennis balls.

He and the king discuss the institutions of their respective countries, the king asking Gulliver many questions about Great Britain that Gulliver finds impossible to answer truthfully without embarrassment. After two years in Brobdingnag, the land of the giants, Gulliver miraculously escapes when a large bird carries his portable quarters out over the sea. The bird drops the box containing Gulliver, and he is rescued by a ship that is on its way to England. Back home, it takes Gulliver some time to accustom himself once more to a world of normal size.

Soon afterward, Gulliver goes to sea again. Pirates from a Chinese port attack the ship. Set adrift in a small sailboat, Gulliver is cast away upon a rocky island. One day, he sees a large floating mass descending from the sky. Taken aboard the flying island of Laputa, he soon finds it to be inhabited by intellectuals who think only in the realm of the abstract and the exceedingly impractical. The people of the island, including the king, are so absentminded that they have to have servants following them to remind them even of their trends of conversation. When the floating island arrives above the continent of Balnibari, Gulliver receives permission to visit that realm. There he inspects the Grand Academy, where hundreds of highly impractical projects for the improvement of agriculture and building are under way.

Next, Gulliver journeys by boat to Glubbdubdrib, the island of sorcerers. By means of magic, the governor of the island shows Gulliver such great historical figures as Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Julius Caesar, Pompey, and Thomas More. Gulliver talks to the apparitions and learns from them that history books are inaccurate.

From Glubbdubdrib, Gulliver ventures to Luggnagg. There he is welcomed by the king, who shows him the Luggnaggian immortals, or Struldbrugs—beings who will never die. Gulliver travels on to Japan, where he takes a ship back to England. He has been away for more than three years.

Gulliver becomes restless after a brief stay at his home, and he signs as captain of a ship that sails from Portsmouth in August, 1710, destined for the South Seas. The crew mutinies, keeping Captain Gulliver prisoner in his cabin for months. At length, he is cast adrift in a longboat off a strange coast. Ashore, he comes upon and is nearly overwhelmed by disgusting half-human, half-ape creatures who flee in terror at the approach of a horse. Gulliver soon discovers, to his amazement, that he is in a land where rational horses, the Houyhnhnms, are masters of irrational human creatures, the Yahoos. He stays in the stable house of a Houyhnhnm family and learns to subsist on oaten cake and milk. The Houyhnhnms are horrified to learn from Gulliver that horses in England are used by Yahoolike creatures as beasts of burden. Gulliver describes England to his host, much to the candid and straightforward Houyhnhnm’s mystification. Such things as wars and courts of law are unknown to this race of intelligent horses. As he did in the other lands he visited, Gulliver attempts to explain the institutions of his native land, but the friendly and benevolent Houyhnhnms are appalled by many of the things Gulliver tells them.

Gulliver lives in almost perfect contentment among the horses, until one day his host tells him that the Houyhnhnm Grand Assembly has decreed Gulliver either be treated as an ordinary Yahoo or be released to swim back to the land from which he had come. Gulliver builds a canoe and sails away. At length, he is picked up by a Portuguese vessel. Remembering the Yahoos, he becomes a recluse on the ship and begins to hate all humankind. Landing at Lisbon, he sails from there to England; on his arrival, however, the sight of his own family repulses him. He faints when his wife kisses him. His horses become his only friends on earth.

Gulliver's Travels Summary

Gulliver's Travels relates the adventures of Lemuel Gulliver, an English surgeon, who, in the first quarter of the eighteenth century,...

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Gulliver's Travels Chapter Summary and Analysis

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Part I, Chapters 1-4: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Lemuel Gulliver: an English physician, ship’s officer, and traveler who is the narrator of the novel

Richard Sympson: cousin of the narrator; the “Letter from Capt. Gulliver” is addressed to him; Gulliver complains that his cousin has made alterations in his manuscript; “The Publisher to the Reader” is supposed to be written by Sympson, who says that the work has an air of truth

James Bates: surgeon who supports Gulliver’s career

Mary Burton: Gulliver’s wife, daughter of a London merchant

The Hurgo: Lilliputian official who supervises Gulliver’s capture, feeds him, and sends him to the Emperor

The Emperor of Lilliput: the proud...

(The entire section is 1430 words.)

Part I, Chapters 5-6: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
The Empress of Lilliput: an enemy of Gulliver, who favors his punishment because he put out a fire in the palace in an inappropriate way

The Treasurer’s Wife: wife of Flimnap, who frequently visits Gulliver, but accompanied by a retinue; Gulliver vindicates her honor by proving that they were never alone

Clustril and Drunlo: the Treasurer’s informers cannot prove that anyone except the Treasurer (on the Emperor’s express orders) came to Gulliver incognito, but successfully damaged Gulliver’s reputation with the Treasurer and the Emperor

Gulliver wades and swims to the enemy island, Blefuscu, eight hundred yards at its nearest point from...

(The entire section is 715 words.)

Part I, Chapters 7-8: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
“A Considerable person at Court”: visits Gulliver and privately gives him a copy of the articles of impeachment against him

The Emperor of Blefuscu: ruler who protects Gulliver after Gulliver, having been accused of treason by the Lilliputians, escapes to Blefuscu

Mrs. Gulliver: the patient wife of the narrator, who remains behind in England during his voyages; introduced earlier as Mary Burton, her maiden name

In Chapters Seven and Eight Gulliver, who “had been all my life,” as he says, “a stranger to Courts,” discovers their terrible effects. He is privately informed by “a considerable person at Court” of the Lilliputians’...

(The entire section is 765 words.)

Part II, Chapters 1-2: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
The Farmer’s Servant: the giant Brobdingnagian, who picks up Gulliver and takes him to his master

The Farmer: Brobdingnagian who exhibits Gulliver as a curiosity

The Farmer’s Wife: at first disgusted by Gulliver as though he were a spider, later sympathetic to him

Glumdalclitch: meaning “little nurse” in Brobdingnagian; the farmer’s daughter, whose pet Gulliver becomes, and who continues to take care of him after he is bought by the Queen of Brobdingnag

Gulliver sails for India (specifically Surat), but his ship is blown off course by a storm; an island is discovered, and Gulliver and some other men go to the island in one of...

(The entire section is 623 words.)

Part II, Chapters 3-4: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
The Queen of Brobdingnag: buys Gulliver from the farmer and presents him to the King

The King: ruler of Brobdingnag, a patron of scholarship; asks Gulliver to describe England to him
The Queen’s Dwarf: becomes Gulliver’s enemy because he is no longer the smallest person at court

A gentleman usher commands Gulliver’s master to bring him to the royal court for the entertainment of the Queen of Brobdingnag and the royal ladies. Gulliver expresses willingness to be sold to the Queen, and the farmer sells him to her. Gulliver then asks that Glumdalclitch continue as his nurse, and this is agreed to. Gulliver meets the King of Brobdingnag, a great...

(The entire section is 639 words.)

Part II, Chapters 5-6: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
The Maids of Honor: play with Gulliver and undress in his presence, which he finds disgusting because of their immense size

Gulliver continues to be tormented by the Dwarf, is pelted by Brobdingnagian hailstones, is picked up by a dog but rescued by a gardener, and is attacked again by birds.

Glumdalclitch and Gulliver are frequently invited by the Maids of Honor of the court to their rooms. They would strip him naked and lay him full length on their bosoms. Gulliver is offended by their odor; similarly a Lilliputian had once told him that he was offended by Gulliver’s odor. The Maids of Honor undress in Gulliver’s presence, which Gulliver finds...

(The entire section is 709 words.)

Part II, Chapters 7-8: Summary and Analysis

New Character:
Thomas Wilcocks: English sea captain who rescues Gulliver and takes him back to England after the box in which he was carried in Brobdingnag falls into the sea; at first thinks Gulliver is crazy

Gulliver continues to describe England, answering the King of Brobdingnag’s questions; despite Gulliver’s efforts to present England in the best possible light, the King sees the bad features. Gulliver tells the King about gunpowder, trying to instruct the king to have it made, together with firearms, but the Brobdingnagian King is aghast at the existence of so terrible a weapon. Gulliver thinks that the King is unnecessarily cautious. The King is unfamiliar with European...

(The entire section is 967 words.)

Part III, Chapters 1-3: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Captain William Robinson: invites Gulliver on his third voyage

The Dutchman: one of the pirates who attack Gulliver’s ship; proposes that Gulliver be set adrift

The Japanese Pirate: sets Gulliver adrift

The King of the Flying Island of Laputa: interested only in mathematics, science, and astronomy; asks Gulliver only about these subjects

Ten days after his arrival in England from his second voyage, Gulliver is asked by Captain William Robinson to be ship’s surgeon, on a voyage to the East Indies, in two months. He persuades his wife, after some difficulties, to allow him to go. After spending time in India and Tonquin (part of...

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Part III, Chapters 4-6: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
The Court Official: related to the King of Laputa; intervenes with the King to allow Gulliver to leave the Flying Island for Balnibarbi, the continent on the ground beneath it

The Lord Munodi: official, former governor of Lagado; describes the continent to Gulliver; shows him the Academy

First Scholar: member of the Academy of Lagado; tries to extract sunbeams from cucumbers

Second Scholar: tries to reduce human excrement to its original food

Architect: tries to build houses from the top down

Blind Artists: leads apprentices, also blind, trying to mix paint colors by smell

Projector: tries to plow the ground with hogs


(The entire section is 1139 words.)

Part III, Chapters 7-9: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Governor of Glubbdubdrib: has ghosts for servants; acts as host to Gulliver; calls up spirits of famous historical figures at Gulliver’s request

Custom-House Officer: confines Gulliver in Luggnag

King of Luggnag: acts as Gulliver’s host; invites Gulliver to stay permanently, but he refuses

Gulliver travels to the port of Maldonada, to get a ship to Luggnag, a country which trades with Japan. There being no ship available for some time, Gulliver makes a side-trip to the small island of Glubbdubdrib, the island of sorcerers or magicians. The people are all magicians, and when Gulliver is received by the Governor of the island, he finds that, as...

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Part III, Chapters 10-11: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Struldbruggs: immortal Laggnagians who lack eternal youth and are therefore unable to do much or remember anything.

Emperor of Japan: suspects Gulliver of being a Christian after he refuses to trample on a crucifix.

At Luggnag, Gulliver is told that some people born there are Struldbruggs or Immortals. Gulliver is, at first, impressed by the idea of people who live forever and are therefore able to bring the experience of the ages to each generation. Then he discovers that they have only eternal life and not eternal youth, and are thus unable to do much or remember anything. They are despised and hated, having to be supported at public expense.


(The entire section is 426 words.)

Part IV, Chapters 1-2: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
James Welch: Mutineer on the Adventure, who sets Gulliver ashore on an island

The Yahoos: animal-like, savage human beings in the country of the Houyhnhms

The Dapple-Gray: Houyhnhm (rational horse) who protects Gulliver and asks him about his country

The Sorrel: servant of the Dapple Gray

Gulliver spends about five months at home in England. With his wife pregnant, he accepts the captaincy of the Adventure, a merchant ship. New sailors to replace those who die of disease are taken on at Barbados. They turn out to be pirates and mutiny against Gulliver, who is held prisoner by them. James Welch, a mutineer, tells Gulliver that...

(The entire section is 441 words.)

Part IV, Chapters 3-5: Summary and Analysis

Gulliver learns the language of the Houyhnhms. His master is amazed at his ability, so uncharacteristic of the Yahoos, and is curious about Gulliver’s origin. Gulliver explains his origin, having difficulties because certain human concepts can be explained only with great difficulty in the Houyhnhms’ language. Gulliver has to say “the thing which is not” because there is no word for “lie” or “falsehood.” When Gulliver is accidentally seen naked, the Houyhnhms realize that he is of the same species as the Yahoos, but differs only in walking on the two hind feet. The Houyhnhms have great difficulty in believing that Gulliver comes from a country in which human beings are rational beings.


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Part IV, Chapters 6-8: Summary and Analysis

Gulliver continues to describe English society to the dapple-gray, and continues to have difficulty explaining human concepts such as money. The Houyhnhm is amazed at human inequality, and at the use by humans of luxuries such as wines and liquors, some of which have to be imported. Gulliver then explains that the bad habits of human beings cause illness, which in turn requires the services of physicians and pharmacists, who often cause rather than prevent death, making them “of special use to husbands and wives who are grown weary of their mates, to eldest sons, to great ministers of state, and often to princes.” Gulliver explains that a minister of state is a creature totally exempt from any human emotion...

(The entire section is 1468 words.)

Part IV, Chapters 9-10: Summary and Analysis

New Character:
Member of Assembly of Houyhnhms: proposes to eliminate the Yahoos

The Houyhnhms hold a grand assembly about three months before Gulliver’s departure; the dapple-gray is a representative. The members debate (the only debate they ever held) whether to eliminate the Yahoos. The Yahoos had not always been in the country of the Houyhnhms; two appeared together on a mountain long ago, produced by mud or by the sea, and proceeded to multiply. To control them, the Houyhnhms killed some and tamed the rest. Asses would make better domestic animals. The dapple mentions Gulliver, and suggests that the first Yahoos to arrive in the land of the Houyhnhms came by sea like Gulliver and...

(The entire section is 756 words.)

Part IV, Chapters 11-12: Summary and Analysis

New Character:
Captain Pedro de Mendez: takes Gulliver to Portugal after he is expelled from the land of the


Gulliver sails away from the land of the Houyhnhms in his boat. He hears the sorrel nag, who always loved him, crying out, “Take of yourself, gentle Yahoo.” Gulliver plans to go to some uninhabited island with the means to support life and spend the rest of his life alone there, thinking of the virtues of the Houyhnhms. He would rather do this than hold the highest office in the politest court of Europe, so disgusted is he with human beings. He decides to sail to New Holland (Australia). He lands there, but is attacked by naked savages who injure him...

(The entire section is 1022 words.)