Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver's Travels book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download Gulliver's Travels Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Part II, Chapters 5-6: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
The Maids of Honor: play with Gulliver and undress in his presence, which he finds disgusting because of their immense size

Summary
Gulliver continues to be tormented by the Dwarf, is pelted by Brobdingnagian hailstones, is picked up by a dog but rescued by a gardener, and is attacked again by birds.

Glumdalclitch and Gulliver are frequently invited by the Maids of Honor of the court to their rooms. They would strip him naked and lay him full length on their bosoms. Gulliver is offended by their odor; similarly a Lilliputian had once told him that he was offended by Gulliver’s odor. The Maids of Honor undress in Gulliver’s presence, which Gulliver finds offensive. Gulliver witnesses an execution, rows a boat, and almost falls forty feet on the floor. He is attacked by a frog and a monkey, who puts him on the roof of a building, but is rescued by men with ladders. He describes his close escape from death to the King, who finds it amusing. Gulliver feels like a poor man attempting to mix with the rich.

In Chapter Six, Gulliver watches the King being shaved, and he makes a comb out of bristles of the King’s hair and some pieces of wood. He makes pieces cut from the Queen’s hair into furniture. He tries to play a spinet (piano-like instrument) sixty feet long. He gives a detailed description of England to the King, who ridicules political corruption there. The King ridicules the idea of figuring the population of England based on the numbers of members of various religious sects, saying that people with dangerous religious opinions ought to hide them.

The King also ridicules gambling and political violence in England. He says that on the basis of Gulliver’s description of his country, “the bulk” of the English are “the most pernicious race of odious little vermin that Nature ever suffered (allowed) to crawl upon the surface of the earth.”

Analysis
Here Swift again emphasizes human frailty in the form of Gulliver’s constantly precarious situation among the giant Brobdingnagians, whose birds, dogs, and monkeys are a threat to him. The same theme appears, expressed in a different way, when the disgusting nature of human beings, when magnified, offends Gulliver. In other words, looked at from certain viewpoints, we are all disgusting because of our human imperfections.

The theme of human frailty and imperfection is expressed in still another way in the King’s reaction to Gulliver’s patriotic descrip¬tion of his native land. English politics, with its normal human frailty, seems to be that of “odious little vermin” to the King, who is gigantic in every sense. Looked at from the viewpoint of a superior outsider, with “Olympian detachment,” a term originally...

(The entire section is 709 words.)