Last Updated on February 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 981
In June 1702, Gulliver sets out on a voyage to Surat, aboard the Adventure. The ship is delayed for some months at the Cape of Good Hope, then endures a storm followed by a strong wind, so that no one on board knows where they are. In June 1703, a year after setting out, they come to a large island or continent. Gulliver goes ashore with a party seeking fresh water but is separated from them as he explores the island. He then sees his companions being chased back to the ship by a man of monstrous size.
Gulliver finds himself in a cornfield, where the corn is about forty feet high. The field is being reaped by men as tall as church steeples, and Gulliver cries out in terror when one of them is about to step on him. The huge man picks Gulliver up and takes him to the farmer who owns the field. The farmer treats Gulliver kindly, and they attempt to communicate but can find no common language in which to do so. The farmer and his family share their midday meal with Gulliver, giving him bread, meat, and a liquor which reminds him of cider. He is perturbed by the sight of the farmer’s dogs (the largest of which is the size of four elephants) and, even more particularly, by the family’s cat, but resolves to show no fear.
After dinner, a nurse comes in with a baby, which picks Gulliver up and puts his head in its mouth. He is saved by the child’s mother, and the nurse feeds the child, exposing her enormous breast, which disgusts Gulliver. He reflects that the skin of an English lady would appear equally coarse if viewed through a magnifying glass. His own face, he recalled, had appeared hideous to the Lilliputians when they were close to him. Gulliver sleeps for a couple of hours on the bed of the farmer’s wife, but when he wakes, he is attacked by rats the size of mastiffs. He manages to kill one of them before the farmer’s wife returns.
The farmer has a daughter of nine years old who looks after Gulliver, makes clothes for him, and teaches him some of the language of Brobdingnag, the kingdom in which he now finds himself. She calls him Grildrig, meaning “little man,” and he refers to her as Glumdalclitch, or “little nurse.” On the advice of a friend, the farmer decides to exhibit Gulliver as a curiosity at a local market, where he stands on a table at an inn and performs tricks for the crowd.
Having discovered that he can make a handsome profit in this way, the farmer decides to take Gulliver on a nationwide tour. They travel around the country for ten weeks, visiting eighteen large towns, as well as various smaller settlements and private families. After this, they arrive in the capital city, Lorbrulgrud, where the farmer takes a central lodging, close to the royal palace, and exhibits Gulliver ten times a day.
Some ladies of the court have seen Gulliver exhibited, and he is commanded to appear before the queen, who is so taken with him that she buys him from the farmer for a thousand gold pieces. She also allows the farmer’s daughter, Glumdalclitch, to stay with him at court. The queen takes Gulliver to the king, who at first thinks he is made of clockwork and then asks some scholars to work out what sort of creature he is. The scholars cannot agree, but Gulliver himself assures the king that he comes from a country where everyone is the same size as he is. The king only begins to believe him after interrogating the farmer and then orders that all possible care be taken of him. The royal cabinet-maker constructs a box in which he is to live, and the queen has clothes made for him out of fine silk.
Gulliver becomes a great favorite with both the queen and the king. The king questions him on the politics of his country and is amused (though rather contemptuously so) by all the schisms and sects in England. Gulliver is initially rather offended by this attitude, but over the following months, he comes closer to the king’s point of view. His chief antagonist at court is the queen’s dwarf, who is about thirty feet tall. The dwarf plays various tricks on Gulliver, such as dropping him into a bowl of cream and wedging him into a hollow marrowbone. Gulliver is also terrified by the flies and by wasps as large as partridges, which have stings an inch and a half long, though the queen views this perfectly reasonable apprehension as cowardice.
Gulliver begins this chapter with a brief description of Brobdingnag. The country is about six thousand miles long and three to five miles wide. It is a peninsula, bounded by ocean on three sides and by impassable volcanoes on the fourth. There is only one seaport but many large rivers. There are fifty-one cities, and the capital, Lorbrulgrud, has a population of around 600,000. The royal palace is “a heap of buildings” with no regular plan. When Gulliver goes out shopping or sightseeing, he is repulsed by the filthiness of the beggars and, particularly, by the lice he can easily see crawling on them.
The Queen has a traveling closet constructed for Gulliver. This is a box with windows, which Glumdalclitch holds on her lap when she takes him outside. He goes to see the chief temple in the city but is disappointed to find it less than three thousand feet high, though nonetheless beautiful and strong. He also describes the military guard of five hundred horses, each up to sixty feet high, which attends the king, as “the most splendid sight that could be ever beheld.”
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