Compare and contrast the Emperor of Lilliput and his court with the King of Brobdingnag and his court.      

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Emperor and court of Lilliput are ridiculous. In order to achieve a position at court, one need only become a skilled "Rope-Dancer" and learn to "jump the highest without falling." Alternately, "Candidates are to undergo a Tryal of Dexterity" where they must jump over a stick held by the Emperor. In this way, then, court positions and positions of service are not filled by people who are the most qualified or intelligent, but by people who are the best at some arbitrary and useless physical feat. Further, the Emperor is extremely warlike and violent, and Gulliver proclaims the Lilliputian army to possess "the best military Discipline [he] ever beheld." They fight over which end of the egg to crack: the big or the small. They fight over how high the heels on their shoes should be: tall or short. And when Gulliver refuses to help Lilliput crush their enemy, Blefuscu, the Emperor turns on him and accuses him of treason and wishes to execute him.

The king of Brobdingnag, on the other hand, is much more peace-loving and generous than the Emperor of Lilliput. Although Gulliver first expects these people to be warlike and savage due to their size, they turn out to be the reverse. The king is amazed to hear Gulliver's stories of England; he is shocked by their "extensive wars" and the need they feel to maintain a "mercenary standing army." In the end, he declares to Gulliver, "I cannot but conclude the Bulk of your Natives, to be the most pernicious Race of little odious Vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the Surface of the Earth." Instead of being impressed by England's might, the king of Brobdingnag is horrified to learn of gunpowder and other inventions that aid in the killing of men. He refers to Gulliver as an "Insect" and his abhorrence of Gulliver grows with each new proof of his and his country's barbarism. The Lilliputian emperor would relate to stories such as these. Ultimately, it seems that England has a great deal more in common with Lilliput than Brobdingnag.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travel, the people of Lilliput are only six inches tall. The Brobdingnagians are as large as buildings. This means that in the Lilliputian court, Gulliver is a creature of great physical power who must be subdued by large groups cooperating, but in the Brobdingnagian court he is absurdly small.

The people of Lilliput are granted political power on the basis of athletic abilities such as leaping and creeping. The Brobdingnagian court is much more intellectual, with the King asking questions of Gulliver about political theories and interested in him because of his mind not his physical attributes.

While the people of Lilliput are small and petty, in every sense, and symbolize the worst aspects of England, including infighting in the court and external hostilities, the Brobdingnagian King represents a wise a benevolent monarch, larger and greater than the English.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial