In Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, what are some of the comic obsessions of the people of Laputa?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gulliver says, "the Minds of these People are so taken up with intense Speculations, that they neither can speak, nor attend to the Discourses of others, without being roused by some external Taction upon the Organs of Speech and Hearing [...]."  He means that the Laputians are so math-obsessed that they cannot even maintain a conversation without being reminded to listen or speak when appropriate.  They are reminded by the presence of a "Flapper," whose job it is to strike them gently on the ear or mouth with a small bladder filled with air to alert the conversant to either listen or speak, respectively.

In fact, they are so obsessed with math that they cut all their food into geometric shapes and use mathematical tools to measure Gulliver for cloths (which does not work at all as nothing fits properly).  They are great at drawing homes, for example, on paper, but they have no interest in "practical Geometry" and thus they are a "clumsy, awkward, and unhandy People."  They totally lack imagination or innovation because it is perceived as having no value or intellectual merit.  

They are likewise obsessed with the celestial bodies and can "never [enjoy] a Minute's Peace of Mind" because they "dread" changes  in the positions of objects in the heavens.  Women are forced to remain on the island unless they obtain a special license from the king, and then none of them ever want to return to such confinement.  Gender oppression is thus another ridiculous obsession of theirs.  

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Gulliver's Travels

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