Last Updated on June 16, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1051
Gulliver relates several accidents which occurred to him while he was living at the court in Brobdingnag. Once, he was walking under an apple tree when the queen’s dwarf shook a bough over his head and he was hit by an apple “near as large as a Bristol barrel.” Another time, he was so bruised by a hailstorm that he could not go out for the next ten days. He was picked up by the gardener’s dog, almost carried off by a kite, and fell up to his neck in the hole beneath a mole hill. Glumdalclitch would also take him to see the queen’s maids of honor, who would strip him naked and lay him across their bosoms, which he greatly disliked, as their smell was offensive. One day, he went to see an execution, in which the criminal was beheaded with a sword forty feet long, and his head bounced half a mile away when he was decapitated.
Gulliver designs a rowing boat, which the queen’s joiner makes for him and which he rows in a specially made trough of water inside the palace. A frog which gets into the water by mistake briefly endangers his life, but his greatest peril comes from a monkey, which gathers him up and takes him outside onto the palace roof. He is rescued by a footman but sustains several injuries. The king enquires what passed through his mind when he was in the monkey’s grasp and what he would have done if this had happened in his own country. Though Gulliver answers him solemnly enough, he soon perceives that the king is laughing at him. He has become an object of ridicule to the whole court. Even Glumdalclitch, though she takes good care of him, is apt to tell the queen of any incidents involving Gulliver which might amuse Her Majesty.
Gulliver describes how he made a comb out of the stubble shaved from the king’s face and wove chairs, after the manner of cane chairs on frames, out of the hairs collected in the queen’s comb. He also learns to play a basic tune on Glumdalclitch’s spinet, with the aid of two sticks to strike the keys.
Gulliver also has serious conversations with the king. In one of these, the king asks him to give an account of the way in which England is governed, in case there might be anything in the system worth imitating. Gulliver is eager to boast about the greatness of England and tells the king about the House of Lords and the House of Commons, the courts of justice, the treasury, and common sports and pastimes among the English. He finishes with a brief account of the last century of English political history. This discussion takes at least five audiences, followed by another in which the king asks numerous questions and raises objections. He asks principally about how the governors of England are chosen and what provision is made for their education. He also enquires into the particulars of the justice system and the financial management of the realm, observing that the English must be a very quarrelsome people to spend so much money on wars. He says that the historical account Gulliver has given him is nothing but “a heap of conspiracies, rebellions, murders, massacres, revolutions, banishments, the very worst effects that avarice, faction, hypocrisy, perfidiousness, cruelty, rage, madness, hatred, envy, lust, malice, and ambition could produce.” The king’s conclusion, from all that Gulliver has told him with great enthusiasm and partiality, is that the majority of the English must be “the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.”
Gulliver apologizes to the reader for the contents of the previous chapter, since he loves his country and hates to hear the king abuse it. He offers the excuse that Brobdingnag is so remote from European civilization that the king cannot be expected to understand it. He demonstrates the king’s lack of perspicacity by relating how he offered to share the secret of making gunpowder with him, explaining what this invention is and how it is employed in Europe. The king is horrified by the idea of the bloodshed Gulliver tells him can be caused by gunpowder and says that it must have been contrived by “some evil genius, enemy to mankind.”
Gulliver says that education in Brobdingnag consists only of a few subjects: morality, history, poetry, and mathematics. The people there do not care for abstract ideas, and their laws cannot be more than twenty-two words in length and are consequently very simple. Although they have had the art of printing for as long as anyone can recall, their libraries are fairly small. Even the king possesses fewer than a thousand books. He ends the chapter with a description of the Brobdingnagian army, which consists of 176,000 foot soldiers and 32,000 cavalry. Given Brobdingnag’s remoteness, Gulliver wonders at their needing an army at all but is told that there have been civil wars, the last of which was ended by the current king’s grandfather.
At the beginning of his third year in Brobdingnag, Gulliver is visiting the seaside in his traveling box when an eagle seizes the box and carries him away. The eagle soon drops the box into the sea. The box proves to be fairly watertight, though Gulliver is constantly afraid of the windows breaking. Eventually, he encounters a ship, which proves to be from England, whereupon he is rescued.
The ship’s captain, whose name is Thomas Wilcocks, is a kindly and intelligent man. Gulliver finally manages to convince him of the truth of his astonishing story with the help of some of the bizarre artifacts from Brobdingnag salvaged from his traveling box. The captain suggests that Gulliver should write a book about his experiences, though Gulliver says that there are too many travel books already. For some time, Gulliver’s experiences in Brobdingnag affect his perception of reality. He talks very loudly and sees everything around him as very small. Many people think him mad on first encountering him, but he eventually learns to adapt his behavior to life among people of his own size.
Unlock This Study Guide Now
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