Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Lemuel Gulliver, a surgeon, sea captain, traveler, and the narrator of these travel accounts, the purpose of which is to satirize the pretentions and follies of humans. Gulliver is an ordinary man, capable of close observation; his deceptively matter-of-fact reportage and a great accumulation of detail make believable and readable a scathing political and social satire. On his first voyage, he is shipwrecked at Lilliput, a country inhabited by people no more than six inches tall, where pretentiousness, individual as well as political, is ridiculed. The second voyage ends in Brobdingnag, a land of giants. Human grossness is a target here. Moreover, Gulliver does not find it easy to make sense of English customs and politics in explaining them to a king sixty feet high. On Gulliver’s third voyage, pirates attack the ship and set him adrift in a small boat. One day he sees and goes aboard Laputa, a flying island inhabited by incredibly abstract and absent-minded people. From Laputa he visits Balnibari, where wildly impractical experiments in construction and agriculture are in progress. Then he goes to Glubbdubdrib, the island of sorcerers, where he is shown apparitions of such historical figures as Alexander and Caesar, who decry the inaccuracies of history books. Visiting Luggnagg, Gulliver, after describing an imaginary immortality of constant learning and growing wisdom, is shown a group of immortals called Struldbrugs, who are grotesque, pitiable creatures, senile for centuries, but destined never to die. Gulliver’s last journey is to the land of the Houyhnhnms, horse-like creatures in appearance, possessed of great intelligence, rationality, restraint, and courtesy. Dreadful human-like creatures, called Yahoos, impart to Gulliver such a loathing of the human form that, forced to return at last to England, he cannot bear the sight of even his own family and feels at home only in the stables.