Gulliver's Travels Questions and Answers
by Jonathan Swift

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Compare and contrast Gulliver's life in Lilliput and Brobdingnag.

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Ironically, although Gulliver is initially charmed by the attractive looks of the tiny Lilliputians, they end up treating him badly. They show themselves, much like Swift's idea of the British, to be vain, nasty, and petty. Rather than appreciate how Gulliver, with the advantage of his large size, helps them, they grow angry at him for not destroying their enemies and for peeing on a fire to put it out. They are morally "little people," and Gulliver is glad to escape them.

In contrast, Gulliver is at first horrified by the ugly appearance of the Brobdingnagians, who are gigantic compared to him. He is repulsed, for example, by their large skin pores. However, they turn out to be much kinder to him than the Lilliputians, and their king is one of the most sympathetic characters in the entire work. His country is not perfect, but it is less corrupt than either Lilliput or England. Gulliver fares well there, despite feeling vulnerable because of his small size.  

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In Lilliput, Gulliver begins as a prisoner but really only because he agrees to be confined; he could easily break his bonds if he wanted to. He is released from confinement once the emperor of Lilliput comes to understand what an incredible weapon he can be against Blefuscu. His strength and size are then exploited by the emperor to debilitate the Blefuscudian naval fleet; however, when Gulliver refuses orders to completely decimate the Blefuscudian people, the emperor turns on him and he is accused of treason. He escapes to Blefuscu, and these people actually help him to build a boat and stock it with sufficient supplies to return home.

In Brobdingnag, Gulliver is initially exploited as well, but this time as an entertainer. He is too small to be anything but a curiosity, but the man he first lives with makes a tidy profit by forcing him to put on shows for everyone who comes to see him. However, this man and his exploitative motives are an aberration in Brobdingnag, where most people—including the king and Gulliver's little nurse, Glumdalclitch—attempt to protect him. To be sure, he is a source of entertainment for many, but after the king purchases him from the man who found him, Gulliver is never endangered or controlled the way the Lilliputians tried to do. The king eventually comes to look down on him as a result of the intelligence he shares about his fellow Englishmen and their penchant for starting wars and making weapons; this was something admired by the Lilliputians.

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