Study Guide

Gulliver's Travels

by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver's Travels Characters

Characters Discussed (Great Characters in Literature)

Lemuel Gulliver

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.

Gulliver's Travels Themes and Characters

The character who merits thorough discussion is Lemuel Gulliver. In many ways Gulliver is an average human being with a profession (surgeon),...

(The entire section is 851 words.)

Gulliver's Travels Character Analysis

Empress of Lilliput

The empress likes Gulliver at first; he charms her by kissing her hand. However, when he extinguishes the fire in her quarters of the palace...

(The entire section is 108 words.)

Flimnap

Flimnap is Lord High Treasurer of Lilliput and the best rope dancer in the emperor's cabinet. Swift meant him to represent politician Robert...

(The entire section is 189 words.)

Dr. Lemuel Gulliver

Dr. Lemuel Gulliver is a medical doctor with an itch to sail the seas rather than make money by cheating his patients—a practice of many of...

(The entire section is 380 words.)

Emperor of Lilliput

A fingernail taller than his subjects, the Lilliputian Emperor is a handsome man with strong features, an olive complexion, and a regal...

(The entire section is 233 words.)

Houyhnhnm

Pronounced "Whin-ems," like a horse's whinny, the Houyhnhnm are a race of intelligent horses Gulliver encounters in Book IV. They are...

(The entire section is 202 words.)

Other Characters

Blefuscudians
Big-Enders and inhabitants of the island across the water from Lilliput, the Blefuscudians are supportive of the...

(The entire section is 1071 words.)