Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

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Part III, Chapters 1-3: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Captain William Robinson: invites Gulliver on his third voyage

The Dutchman: one of the pirates who attack Gulliver’s ship; proposes that Gulliver be set adrift

The Japanese Pirate: sets Gulliver adrift

The King of the Flying Island of Laputa: interested only in mathematics, science, and astronomy; asks Gulliver only about these subjects

Ten days after his arrival in England from his second voyage, Gulliver is asked by Captain William Robinson to be ship’s surgeon, on a voyage to the East Indies, in two months. He persuades his wife, after some difficulties, to allow him to go. After spending time in India and Tonquin (part of modern Vietnam), Gulliver’s ship is driven off course by a storm and attacked by pirate ships. Gulliver antagonizes a Dutch pirate by telling him that Gulliver and his men are Christians. The Dutch pirate tries to persuade the Japanese captain of the larger pirate ship to throw him into the sea; instead, Gulliver is set adrift in a small boat. He sails to a small island; after sailing to several islands, Gulliver lands on an island and is surprised to see an immense object in the sky. It turns out to be an island in the air, inhabited by people, with several levels and stairways. Gulliver asks for help with gestures, and he is pulled up to the island.

In Chapter Two, Gulliver sees people attended by servants, called “flappers,” who gently hit them with balloon-like objects filled with dry peas or small pebbles to rouse them when they are deep in thought, which is usually the case.

Gulliver visits the King and attends a banquet in which the foods are cut in the shape of geometrical figures and musical instruments. Clothing is similarly decorated, and is also decorated with figures of suns, moons, and stars. After Gulliver learns some of the language, he has clothes made for him. The tailors measure his body with navigational instruments and make mathematical calculations; the resulting garments are, as is common in Laputa, very ill-fitting. The Laputans hear the music of the spheres, pick up petitions from the land below with pack-threads and weights, praise people and animals in geometric terms, and in general are very theoretically oriented and bad at practical matters. They believe in astrology, and the men are often cheated on by their wives. The women favor men from the land below the island, because they are bored by their excessively theoretical and impractical husbands. The King has no interest in the general state of things in England, asking Gulliver only about mathematics there.

In Chapter Three, Gulliver learns that the Flying or Floating Island is exactly circular, contains ten thousand acres, can be raised above the clouds, and is enabled to fly by a gigantic magnetic stone in a chasm in the island’s center. The island cannot fly away from the land beneath, nor can it fly above a four-mile altitude. It is steered by astronomers, who have also discovered two additional satellites of Mars.

Rebellions are put down by having the island hover over the rebellious area, cutting off sunlight. If necessary, the islanders fight by bombarding the rebels from above with rocks. One rebellious city won concessions by building towers with magnetic stones at each of the city’s four corners, preventing countermeasures by the King of the Floating Island.

Swift depicts here the book’s only realm run by normal-sized human beings. In order to keep up the fantastic tone of the book, he introduces other science-fiction type devices. As usual, Gulliver meets with disaster on the...

(The entire section is 901 words.)