Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

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Part III, Chapters 10-11: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Struldbruggs: immortal Laggnagians who lack eternal youth and are therefore unable to do much or remember anything.

Emperor of Japan: suspects Gulliver of being a Christian after he refuses to trample on a crucifix.

At Luggnag, Gulliver is told that some people born there are Struldbruggs or Immortals. Gulliver is, at first, impressed by the idea of people who live forever and are therefore able to bring the experience of the ages to each generation. Then he discovers that they have only eternal life and not eternal youth, and are thus unable to do much or remember anything. They are despised and hated, having to be supported at public expense.

Gulliver finally travels to Japan, where he is told that, like the Dutch who trade with the Japanese, he has to publicly trample on a crucifix in order to be allowed to leave. With some difficulty, he is exempted from this requirement, although this exemption has to be kept secret from the Dutch. The Japanese Emperor suspects Gulliver of being a Christian. Gulliver passes as a Dutchman, and he goes to the Netherlands on a Dutch ship. From there he returns to England, finding his family in good health.

The Struldbruggs disappoint Gulliver by having eternal life and not eternal youth, defeating what Gulliver thinks would be the very purpose of immortality. Gulliver is satirizing travelers’ tales about immortals by using a very old theme from Greek mythology, eternal life without eternal youth. Swift himself, it should be remembered, was almost sixty when Gulliver’s Travels was written. Gulliver is depicted as naive in thinking that the Struldbruggs have eternal youth as well as eternal life. To...

(The entire section is 426 words.)