Gulliver's Travels Questions and Answers
by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver's Travels book cover
Start Your Free Trial

In Swift's Gulliver's Travels, how are the Lilliputians clever and inventive?

Expert Answers info

Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)


calendarEducator since 2016

write7,348 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

The Lilliputians are clever and inventive in that they do devise a way of subduing Gulliver when he first arrives on their shores as well as of moving him from the beach to the city.  He is so much larger than they that it requires a good deal of inventiveness to come up with such a machine. 

Further, in terms of maintaining peace and order in the community, the Lilliputians do not simply punish people who break the law, but they also reward those people who follow it.  A person who can prove that they have followed the law for "Seventy-three Moons" has a "claim to certain Privileges," including some money.  This is pretty clever, I think, as reward is often more motivating than punishment (as we observe in our society) and, perhaps more importantly, because it works for them. 

Finally, when the Lilliputians make an inventory of Gulliver's pockets, they find his watch, an item they come to understand as "the God that he worships" because Gulliver tells them that he rarely takes any action "without consulting it" first.  Although humankind would most likely not want to admit that the clock is our real master, the Lilliputians shrewdly understand -- in a way that Gulliver does not seem to -- that it must be.  This seems quite clever to me as well.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial