Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

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Part III, Chapters 4-6: Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
The Court Official: related to the King of Laputa; intervenes with the King to allow Gulliver to leave the Flying Island for Balnibarbi, the continent on the ground beneath it

The Lord Munodi: official, former governor of Lagado; describes the continent to Gulliver; shows him the Academy

First Scholar: member of the Academy of Lagado; tries to extract sunbeams from cucumbers

Second Scholar: tries to reduce human excrement to its original food

Architect: tries to build houses from the top down

Blind Artists: leads apprentices, also blind, trying to mix paint colors by smell

Projector: tries to plow the ground with hogs

Artist: tries to use spiders as silkworms

Physician: tries to cure people by pumping them with a bellows

Universal Artist: tries a variety of impossible experiments

Speculative Professor: makes a frame with all the words in the Lagadan language written on pieces of wood; composes nonsensical literary works by rearranging them at random

Language Professors: try to substitute images of things discussed for words, eliminating the necessity of speaking

Mathematical Professor: tries to teach by giving students pills to take, containing knowledge

Political Professor: tries to cure politicians by medicine and violence

Second and Third Political Professors: propose absurd methods of taxation

Fourth Political Professor: tries to discover conspiracies against the government by studying people’s food

Gulliver, tired of the Floating Island, befriends a court official, related to the King, who intervenes to allow Gulliver to depart. Gulliver receives money from the King and a recommendation from the official to a friend of his in Lagado, capital of the mainland continent of Balnibarbi. Gulliver lands and gives the letter to the official’s friend the Lord Munodi, former governor of Lagado. Balnibarbi is a poor country. Munodi is polite and describes the continent to Gulliver, showing him the Academy of Lagado, founded some years before by people who had returned from several months in the Floating Island with a smattering of mathematics, “but full of volatile spirits acquired in that airy region.”

The Academy uses theoretical knowledge to bring about what its members believe to be great improvements and inventions, none of which have been perfected. In the meantime, other activities being neglected, the country has become very poor. Munodi, like a few other local lords, was content to live in the old, time-honored way. He was exempt from the poverty prevalent elsewhere on the continent, but was attacked as lazy.

In Chapter Five, Gulliver visits and describes the Academy of Lagado, which is not one building but several houses along a street.

The first scholar Gulliver sees in the Academy has been working for eight years on a project for extracting sunbeams from cucumbers. The second had long been trying in vain to reduce human excrement to its original food. An architect is trying to build houses from the top down. A man born blind is, aided by blind assistants, trying to mix paint colors by smell. Another tries to plow the ground with hogs; another tries to use spiders as silkworms. An astronomer tries to put a sundial on a weathervane and a physician tries to cure patients by pumping them with a bellows. There are others involved in similar vain, extravagant schemes.

A “universal artist” directs a workshop in which 50 men are involved in a variety of fantastic experiments, such as softening marble for pillows and pincushions and breeding naked sheep without wool.

Gulliver then visits the more theoretically oriented part of the Academy, where he sees a professor who has had a 20-foot square frame made and placed in the center of the room. The frame is filled with many small pieces of wood linked together by thin wires, each being labeled with a word, so that all the words in the language in all grammatical forms appear on the frame. By manipulating the frame, the words are moved around. They sometimes form...

(The entire section is 1,139 words.)