Gulliver's Travels Lesson Plan - Lesson Plan

eNotes Lesson Plan

Introductory Lecture and Objectives


Introductory Lecture

Gulliver’s Travels was published in 1726 to immediate success and much controversy. Author Jonathan Swift wrote to his friend Alexander Pope that the purpose of his writing “is to vex the world rather than divert it.” Swift was a well-known Anglican priest, intellectual, historian, and political satirist. While he wrote Gulliver’s Travels about a set of political and social conflicts at the time leading to the Age of Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and wars between England and France, this novel derives its staying power from its vivid depiction of human avarice, corruption, and oppression. 

Lemuel Gulliver, a sea-loving surgeon and “everyman” who travels to four lands and has numerous adventures, narrates Gulliver’s Travels in the past tense. This single point of view structurally unites the four seemingly unrelated voyages that compose the satire. In approaching the work, it helps to view Gulliver as Swift’s alter ego and to view the progression of the novel as Gulliver’s changing perception of himself and the world: Gulliver begins the journey larger than life in the land of the tiny Lilliputians, and after observing mankind’s tendency toward greed and selfishness, he finds himself most contented in a land of horses who are governed by reason. Themes and motifs throughout Gulliver’s Travels are primarily those of culture, politics, and the individual, while the lands that Gulliver visits provide vivid symbols for satire. 

Swift’s satirical style has made Gulliver’s Travels important from the moment it was published to today, three hundred years later. “Satire,” Swift wrote in The Battle of the Books, “is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.” Throughout Gulliver’s Travels, Swift satirizes scientists, academics, snobs, politicians, lawyers, doctors, and women; man as a sinner— his avarice, selfishness, and folly—is also held up to ridicule. Furthermore, Swift parodies travel writers’ preoccupation with appearing to be “experts” in everything they write. It would appear, however, that despite Swift’s critique of humanity and its institutions, he felt passionately enough about mankind to hope that those who read Gulliver’s Travels would reconsider themselves and the world around them in order to help make it a better place. That said, the moral of the novel appears to be that nowhere in a world of human beings does the ideal exist. 

In the subjects of its literary examination and satire, Gulliver’s Travels remains relevant and often seems even timely. The practice of economically exploiting other countries, touched upon in Gulliver’s accounts of his first and third voyages, was the policy of English and French colonial governments during Swift’s time, just as world powers today often go into underdeveloped cultures and consume their resources. Conflicts of religious ideology, as observed in the battle of the “Big-Endians” and the “Small-Endians,” were inspired by the “troubles” in Ireland during Swift’s time when England oppressed the Irish, and they are still apparent today, often reflected in political conflicts throughout the world. Even the feuds between the “High Heels” and the “Low Heels” in Lilliput, which represented the feuds between the Whigs and the Tories in Swift’s time, continue between and among current political parties. 

While the novel is noted for its satire, Gulliver’s Travels engages and entertains in other ways as well. Swift’s imaginary worlds and fantastic characters draw readers into the narrative, and his exaggerated stories of Gulliver’s strange and exotic adventures hold their interest. Moreover, the literary themes, motifs, and symbols developed in the novel invite thought and lively discussion, encouraging readers to examine the observations about human nature and human society that make Gulliver’s Travels one of the most celebrated novels of all time.

By the end of the unit the student will be able to: 

1. Define satire and explain through which characters and in what ways satire is employed in Gulliver’s Travels

2. Identify and discuss the primary themes in the novel. 

3. Identify the symbols developed in the novel, explain the ideas they communicate, and discuss their significance. 

4. Identify the common roots of politics, culture, and the human condition and discuss how these are developed thematically in the novel. 

5. Identify examples of different cultural beliefs and values as illustrated in the novel, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of cultural differences. 

6. Consider and discuss the themes related to the individual versus society, as well as the motif of people taking themselves too seriously, especially in regard to Gulliver’s character. 

7. Identify examples of the motifs of languages, clothing, and base physical actions and discuss their significance within the novel. 

8. Explain how, and through which characters, “might” trumps “right” throughout Gulliver’s advertures. 

9. Determine and define the elements that make Gulliver’s Travels one of the most celebrated novels of all time.

Instructional Focus: Teaching With an eNotes Lesson Plan

This eNotes lesson plan is designed so that it may be used in numerous ways to accommodate ESL students and to differentiate instruction in the classroom. 

Student Lesson Guide 

• The Lesson Guide is organized to study the parts of the novel in chapters. Lesson Guide pages may be assigned individually and completed at a student’s own pace. 

• Lesson Guide pages may be used as pre-reading activities to preview for students the vocabulary words they will encounter in reading the chapters and to acquaint them generally with their content. 

• Before Lesson Guide pages are assigned, questions may be selected from them to use as short quizzes to assess reading comprehension. 


(The entire section is 484 words.)

Essay and Discussion Questions

1. Compare and contrast Gulliver’s experiences in Lilliput and in Brobdingnag. How does his perception of himself and of Western society change during these first two voyages, given his physical size? 

2. How does Jonathan Swift portray the women in each land? How do his portrayals of women differ? How are they similar throughout the novel? Are women generally portrayed in a positive or a negative light? 

3. How does Swift use language and writing style to satirize various subjects? How do his satirical language and style change as the story progresses? 

4. How, and when, does Swift develop the motif of fortune throughout the book? Is this motif presented seriously, or is it...

(The entire section is 672 words.)

Prologue One A Letter from Captain Gulliver to his Cousin Sympson Written in the Year 1727


degrading: causing a loss of self-respect, humiliating 

intelligible: comprehensible, understandable 

minced: affected fastidiousness 

pious: devoutly religious 

precepts: general rules meant to regulate behavior and thought 

reverence: to regard, to treat with great respect 

whereof: of what or of which 

Study Questions

1. What is the primary dispute that Gulliver has with his cousin Sympson? 

Gulliver contends that Sympson published an “uncorrect” version of the manuscript. Granted, Gulliver writes, he understood the manuscript to be “loose” and that a university man would edit it,...

(The entire section is 425 words.)

Prologue Two The Publisher to the Reader


innumerable: too many to be counted 

perused: read thoroughly and carefully 

veracity: conformity to facts, accuracy 

Study Questions

1. Why is there a letter from the publisher to the reader of Gulliver’s Travels

This letter is written by Gulliver’s publisher in response to “A Letter from Captain Gulliver to his Cousin Sympson,” in which Gulliver complains to him about the content of his novel and the manner of its publication. 

2. How does Sympson defend himself against Gulliver’s claims? 

Sympson contends that much of Gulliver’s manuscript was “circumstantial.” He says he only...

(The entire section is 395 words.)

Part One Chapters 1, 2, and 3


abated: to become less widespread, to lessen in intensity 

clemency: mercy, leniency 

conjecture: to form an opinion without complete information 

countenance: a person’s face or facial expression 

declivity: a downward slope; a descent 

disapprobation: strong disapproval commonly based on moral grounds 

durst: past tense of “to dare” 

infallible: incapable of making mistakes or being wrong 

intrepid: fearless, undaunted 

ligature: something used to bind or to tie 

lucid: expressed clearly, easy to understand 

magnanimous: generous or forgiving (particularly to a rival or someone less powerful) 

malign: to...

(The entire section is 2166 words.)

Part One Chapters 4, 5, and 6


circumspect: wary and unwilling to take risks 

concupiscence: strong sexual desire; lust 

degenerate: decline or deteriorate physically, mentally or morally 

docile: agreeable, submissive 

encomiums: speeches or writings that praise someone or something highly 

expostulate: to express strong disapproval 

extenuation: to make guilt or sin seem less serious or offensive 

judicature: the judiciary; the administration of justice 

knave: a dishonest, unscrupulous man 

schism: a split or division between strongly opposed sections or parties caused by differences in opinion or belief 

servile: showing excessive willingness to serve and...

(The entire section is 1672 words.)

Part One Chapters 7 and 8


amity: a friendly relationship; friendliness 

auspicious: conducive to success; favorable 

cabal: a secret political clique 

entreat: to ask someone earnestly or anxiously to do something 

expostulations: expressions of earnest opposition or protest 

ignominious: deserving or causing public disgrace or shame 

incumbrance: archaic encumbrance; a mortgage or other charge on property or assets 

tallow: a hard, fatty substance rendered from animal fat 

veracity: conformity to facts; truth 

1. Consider the opening paragraph of Chapter 7: 

I had been hitherto, all my life, a stranger to Courts, for...

(The entire section is 1001 words.)

Part Two Chapters 1 and 2


hinds: skilled farmworkers 

squall: a sudden, violent gust of rain or wind 

staunch: loyal and committed in attitude 

stile: an arrangement of steps to allow people but not animals to climb over a wall 

supplicating: asking or begging earnestly or humbly 

therewith: archaic soon or immediately after 

unintelligible: impossible to understand 

urchin: a mischievous child, one who is poor or raggedly dressed 

Study Questions

1. How does Gulliver end up stranded on Brobdingnag? 

Out of curiosity, Gulliver had left his ship with a small crew to explore the land. While ashore, he “saw our...

(The entire section is 1240 words.)

Part Two Chapters 3, 4, and 5


abhorred: regarded with horror or loathing 

bemired: covered or stained with mud 

discompose: to disturb, to agitate 

malefactor: a person who commits a crime or some other wrong 

mirth: amusement 

nettled: irritated, annoyed 

odious: unpleasant, repulsive 

rabble: a disorderly crowd, a mob 

rogue: a dishonest, unpleasant man 

scurvy: a disease caused by lack of vitamin C 

vexed: annoyed, irritated 

viscous: of a thick, sticky consistency between liquid and solid 

Study Questions

1. After working six days a week, Gulliver’s health deteriorates. How does the farmer respond to...

(The entire section is 1790 words.)

Part Two Chapters 6, 7, and 8


august: respected, impressive 

bulwark: a defensive wall; person, institution, or principle that acts as defense 

Cicero: a Roman orator and writer 

cudgels: short, thick sticks used as weapons 

Demosthenes: an Athenian orator 

erudition: profound, scholarly knowledge 

laudable: deserving praise 

panegyric: a public speech or published text in praise of someone or something 

perfidiousness: exhibiting betrayal or distrust 

Phaethon: son of Helios, the sun god 

pippin: an apple grown from seed 

raillery: good-humored teasing 

repine: to feel or express discontent; to fret 

sagacity: wisdom, acumen 


(The entire section is 1464 words.)

Part Three Chapters 1 and 2


cadence: a modulation or inflection of the voice 

cogitation: carefully considered thought 

defray: to provide for the payment of an expense 

derivation: obtained or developed from its source or origin 

etymology: the study of the origin of words and how they have changed throughout history 

obtrude: to become noticeable in an unwelcome way 

perihelion: the point in the orbit of a planet, asteroid, or comet at which it is closest to the sun 

precipice: a steep rock face or cliff 

reprobate: an unprincipled person 

sloop: a one-masted sailboat 

zenith: the highest point reached by a celestial object 


(The entire section is 1029 words.)

Part Three Chapters 3 and 4


adamant: a legendary rock or mineral 

chasm: a deep fissure in the earth 

circumference: the perimeter of a circle 

declivity: a downward slope 

demesne: land attached to a manor and retained for the owner’s use 

illustrious: well known, respected, admired 

oblique: slanted, inclined 

tenure: a condition by which land or buildings are occupied 

Study Questions

1. How is the island of Laputa able to move about? 

The island is able to rise and fall, and move from one place to another, “by means of a lodestone [sic].” Like a magnet, the stone has negative power on one side and positive power on the...

(The entire section is 1358 words.)

Part Three Chapters 5 and 6


apothecary: archaic a person who prepares and sells medicines and drugs 

bolus: a small rounded mass 

brevity: concise use of words in speech or writing 

Chimera: Greek mythological character a fire-breathing woman 

colic: pain caused by gas or intestinal obstruction 

diminution: reduction in size 

ebullient: cheerful, full of energy 

irreconcilable: so different as to be incompatible 

licentiousness: lewdness, lasciviousness 

occiput: the back of the head, the skull 

peccant: offensive 

petulant: childishly sulky, bad tempered 

tincture: be tinged with a slight amount of something in...

(The entire section is 892 words.)

Part Three Chapters 7 and 8


Agesilaus: king of Sparta 

Alexander the Great: king of Macedonia 

antic: a ludicrous or extravagant act or gesture 

Antony: Roman politician and soldier 

Arbela: an ancient city in Jordan 

Aristotle: ancient Greek philosopher and scientist 

Augustus: Roman emperor 

Brutus: Roman politician and soldier 

Caesar: Roman emperor, statesman, and writer 

consummate: to accomplish, to complete 

Descartes: 16th-century French philosopher and mathematician 

diadems: jeweled crowns or headpieces worn as a sign of sovereignty 

Epicurus: ancient Greek philosopher 

Eustathius: Byzantine philosopher 


(The entire section is 867 words.)

Part Three Chapters 9, 10, and 11


appellation: the act of calling by a name or title 

calamity: an act that brings terrible loss or lasting distress; a disaster 

clemency: a disposition to show mercy 

gradation: a system of gradual steps; a progression 

imbecile: a silly or foolish person 

infallible: incapable of making a mistake, unerring 

malicious: deliberately harmful, spiteful 

sages: ones venerated for wisdom and justice 

sublunary: situated below the moon; of this Earth, earthly 

Study Questions

1. Gulliver leaves Glubbdubdrib and sails to Luggnag. How does one approach the King of Luggnag? 

One is expected to lick the...

(The entire section is 911 words.)

Part Four Chapters 1, 2, and 3


antipathy: a deep-seating feeling of dislike, an aversion 

buccaneers: pirates 

calentures: tropical fevers 

debauch: to destroy moral purity, to debase 

execrable: extremely bad, wretched, detestable 

orthography: the conventional spelling system of a language 

prodigy: a person endowed with special abilities 

slacken: to relax, to loosen 

Study Questions

1. What does Gulliver write about in regard to embarking on a fourth voyage? 

Gulliver is happily at home with his wife for five months and remarks that “if [he] could have learned the lesson of knowing when [he] was well,” he would have stayed...

(The entire section is 1088 words.)

Part Four Chapters 4, 5, and 6


abominable: worthy of moral revulsion, detestable 

clamour: (British spelling) a loud, persistent outcry from many people 

disquiet: a feeling of worry, anxiety 

drudgery: hard and menial work 

embroiled: involved deeply in an argument or conflict 

iniquity: sin, immoral behavior 

insuperable: impossible to overcome 

interpose: to introduce between parts 

obsequious: excessively obedient or attentive, servile 

perplex: to complicate, to confuse 

portend: a sign or warning 

precipitate: to cause an event, usually negative, to happen suddenly and unexpectedly 

tractable: easy to control or influence 


(The entire section is 995 words.)

Part Four Chapters 7 and 8


dubious: not to be relied upon, suspect 

extenuate: to make guilt or offense less serious 

libidinous: having or exhibiting lustful desires 

parity: state or condition of being equal 

propensity: inclination, tendency toward 

rapine: the violent seizure of someone’s property 

repast: a meal 

replete: completely filled, satisfied 

venerate: regard with great respect 

Study Questions

1. How is Gulliver’s stay in the country of the Houyhnhnms different from the time he spent in other countries? 

Living among the Houyhnhnms, Gulliver is not a prisoner or a guest of humans small or large,...

(The entire section is 883 words.)

Part Four Chapters 9 and 10


asunder: apart, divided 

exhortation: an address or communication emphatically ordering someone to do something 

indocible: incapable of being taught; dull in intellect 

pravity: from depravity, perversion 

tallow: a hard, fatty substance made from rendered animal fat (used in making soap and candles 

Study Questions

1. How do the Houyhnhnms explain the human history of the Yahoos? 

The Houyhnhnms believe that two Yahoos appeared together upon a mountain: “Whether produced by the heat of the sun upon corrupted mud and slime, or from the ooze and froth of the sea, was never known.” Their brood grew so numerous that...

(The entire section is 850 words.)

Part Four Chapters 11 and 12


accoutred: clothed or equipped (typically in an impressive way) 

defile: to sully, to mar, to spoil 

depose: to remove from office suddenly 

execrable: extremely bad or unpleasant 

idolatrous: characterized by worshipping idols 

inquisition: a period of prolonged investigation; a judicial inquiry 

inviolable: never to be broken, infringed, or dishonored 

recluse: a person who lives a solitary life and avoids other people 

rue: an evergreen shrub with bitter-smelling lobes 

zeal: great energy and enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or objective 

Study Questions

1. What do the Houyhnhnms seem to...

(The entire section is 1245 words.)

Multiple-Choice Test and Answer Key

1. How tall is the average Lilliputian? 

A. four inches 

B. six inches 

C. seven inches 

D. five inches 

E. eight inches 

2. Why is the way that the Lilliputians perceive themselves satirical? 

A. because they are small and yet they view themselves as powerful and strong 

B. because they are small and yet they view themselves as weak 

C. because they are small and yet they view themselves as tiny 

D. because they are small and yet they view themselves as larger than Gulliver 

E. because they are small and yet they view themselves...

(The entire section is 1398 words.)

Essay Exam Questions With Answers

1. Discuss how females in the novel are portrayed and identify specific examples to support your assertions. 

Viewing women as powerless, intellectually weak, and neurotic in their roles of wife and mother was the pervasive cultural perception at the time Swift wrote the novel, and these eighteenth-century views are displayed throughout Gulliver’s Travels. Women are routinely ridiculed, insulted, or dismissed out of hand. During his third voyage, Gulliver quips with derisive humor that women are the same regardless of nationality or habitat: “But he (the reader) may please to consider, that the caprices of womankind are not limited by any climate or nation, and that they are much more uniform than...

(The entire section is 3401 words.)