Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

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Part II, Chapters 7-8: Summary and Analysis

New Character:
Thomas Wilcocks: English sea captain who rescues Gulliver and takes him back to England after the box in which he was carried in Brobdingnag falls into the sea; at first thinks Gulliver is crazy

Gulliver continues to describe England, answering the King of Brobdingnag’s questions; despite Gulliver’s efforts to present England in the best possible light, the King sees the bad features. Gulliver tells the King about gunpowder, trying to instruct the king to have it made, together with firearms, but the Brobdingnagian King is aghast at the existence of so terrible a weapon. Gulliver thinks that the King is unnecessarily cautious. The King is unfamiliar with European secrets of statecraft, and thinks that:

whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.

This is one of the most famous statements in Swift’s works; Gulliver thinks the King “confined the knowledge of governing within very narrow bounds.” In other words, the King seems to Gulliver to be naive.

Gulliver notes that the knowledge of the Brobdingnagians is practical, not theoretical; they explain things in very simple terms. To write a commentary on any law is punished by death; there are few crimes or legal disputes, anyway.

Their books are gigantic, to Gulliver, but the Brobdingnagians’ style is clear. One book emphasizes the weakness of human beings.

The Brobdingnagians, observes Gulliver, have a large army, organized as a militia under the command of local landowners. Although there are no external armies, the army is large to prevent civil strife.

In Chapter Eight, Gulliver complains that he is well treated but not free in Brobdingnag. He had been in the country for two years when the King takes him along on a royal tour of the country, together with Glumdalclitch; Gulliver is carried in his box. When near the ocean, Gulliver is asleep in his box when he discovers that the box is raised very high in the air. In fact an eagle has picked him up, the ring attached to the box being in the bird’s beak. The bird drops the box, which floats in the ocean. Gulliver is hoisted up. He has been picked up by an English ship; the carpenter saws a hole in the box and rescues Gulliver. Gulliver is confused because he is now among men his own size. The captain of the ship, Thomas Wilcocks, thinks Gulliver is crazy at first but later believes his story. He suggests that Gulliver write an account of his voyages; Gulliver thinks that there are already too many travel books.

Gulliver is taken back to England, has trouble adjusting to the scale, and is at first thought crazy by his family. His wife asks him never to go to sea again, but he does go.

Again in these chapters, Swift employs variations on the theme of human frailty and imperfection. Irony is employed in displaying the naive Gulliver’s viewing the greater humanity of the King of Brobdingnag as naiveté. Thinking that he is being helpful, Gulliver proposes the introduction of firearms to the King. The King is shocked at the use of such fearsome weapons; Gulliver thinks him naive.

Again, Gulliver represents the average Englishman, while the King represents Swift’s idea of the good king, a goodness the depraved Englishman mistakes for “narrowness.” It is, however, true that Brobdingnag has no external enemies, or neighbors at all. The King represents a wise, relatively realistic, idealism, which is Swift’s Tory and Christian ideal of government.

Brobdingnag’s books avoid the unnecessarily theoretical; Gulliver, representing the average Englishman, sees this as naive...

(The entire section is 967 words.)