Gulliver's Travels Characters
The main characters in Gulliver’s Travels include Lemuel Gulliver, the emperor of Lilliput, and Gulliver’s Houyhnhnm master.
- Lemuel Gulliver is the story’s narrator and protagonist, a well-educated member of the English gentry, and a ship’s surgeon. His voyages around the world turn him into a misanthrope.
- The emperor of Lilliput belongs to a race of miniature people, the Lilliputians. He first welcomes Gulliver, then turns against him when Gulliver refuses to attack Blefuscu.
- Gulliver’s Houyhnhnm master belongs to a peaceful society of sentient horses. Like all the Houyhnhnms, who regard the human-like Yahoos as beasts, he is entirely honest and reasonable.
Last Reviewed on May 12, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1115
Lemuel Gulliver is the protagonist, the narrator, and by far the most major character, providing the only connection between the four parts of the narrative. He is a minor member of the English country gentry, the son of a small landowner. He received a good education at the ancient universities of Cambridge and Leiden, then became a surgeon, practicing mainly on board ship. Apart from his love of travel, Gulliver has few consistent character traits, since one of his most important roles is to provide a foil for the society in which he finds himself in each part of the narrative, or for a particular character. In part 1, for instance, he shows no particular patriotism, but in part 2, he suddenly becomes a zealous apologist for England when engaged in conversation with the king of Brobdingnag. His experiences and hardships, particularly his observations of the Yahoos in part 4, have made him a misanthrope by the end of the book.
The Emperor of Lilliput, Golbasto Momarem Evlame Gurdilo Shefin Mully Ully Gue
The emperor of Lilliput at first appears an ideal prince. He is tall by Lilliputian standards, handsome, and accomplished. He receives Gulliver graciously and supplies his considerable needs for food, clothing, and accommodation. He also sets Gulliver free and bestows upon him the title of nardac (equivalent to a duke in England) for his capture of fifty Blefuscudian warships. However, immediately after this, the emperor turns against Gulliver, revealing an ungrateful and tyrannical side to his nature. When Gulliver refuses to help the emperor to enslave Blefuscu, the emperor agrees with his ministers that Gulliver should first be blinded, then starved to death. The reader’s final impression of the emperor, therefore, is that he is cruel and treacherous. In this, he seems a fitting representative for his people.
Finance Minister Flimnap
The finance minister is well-known as the best tightrope performer at court and, since this is regarded as a qualification for high office, one of the ablest ministers. He comes to hate Gulliver, principally because he is suspicious of his wife and believes that she visits Gulliver secretly. Gulliver assures the reader that there is no foundation for these suspicions and that Flimnap merely has a suspicious mind after participating in court intrigues for so many years.
Admiral Skyresh Bolgolam
Skyresh Bolgolam is the supreme commander of the Lilliputian navy. He has few obvious character traits beyond his cruelty, deviousness, and hatred of Gulliver, which Gulliver protests he has done nothing to cause.
Reldresal is Gulliver’s closest friend and takes his side in the court councils where his future is discussed. However, his idea of clemency in that Gulliver should be blinded rather than murdered, and he even tacitly acquiesces to the plan to starve Gulliver to death. Though relatively well-disposed to Gulliver, he is not, therefore, a particularly true or constant friend, and is portrayed as a fairly typical devious Lilliputian minister.
The Emperor of Blefuscu
Although the emperor of Blefuscu only appears briefly at the end of part 1, he treats Gulliver kindly and helps him to return home. Gulliver trusts him and remarks on his generosity and grace. However, he had exactly the same impression of the treacherous Lilliputian emperor after a similarly brief acquaintance.
The unnamed farmer in whose field Gulliver is found initially treats him kindly but soon displays an avaricious streak and starts exhibiting Gulliver for money. He does this for such long hours that the punishing schedule damages Gulliver’s health. The farmer believes he will soon die and is only too happy to realize a quick profit by selling him to the queen.
The farmer’s nine-year-old daughter is called Glumdalclitch, or “little nurse,” by Gulliver. She is kind and affectionate, the only one of the farmer’s family who seems genuinely to care for Gulliver. She remains with him and looks after him when he goes to court.
The King of Brobdingnag
The king is portrayed as a wise man and a deep thinker, with scholarly interests. He seems fond of Gulliver but does not take him seriously, regarding him with benevolent contempt as an inferior being.
The Queen of Brobdingnag
The queen is kind and motherly. She treats Gulliver as a pet and is indulgent in providing entertainment for him, as well as being amused by his escapades.
The Queen’s Dwarf
The queen’s dwarf is generally malevolent and conceives a particular antipathy for Gulliver. He is whipped several times for mistreating the only man at court smaller than he is, a proceeding which only increases his dislike.
Captain Thomas Wilcocks
The captain who rescues Gulliver is portrayed as a kindly, down-to-earth, and intelligent man who listens patiently to Gulliver’s story. He will take none of the curiosities from Brobdingnag which Gulliver offers him, which is evidence of both honor and good taste.
Captain William Robinson
William Robinson has commanded ships on which Gulliver has traveled before and always treated him well, even as an equal rather than a subordinate. He clearly has great respect for Gulliver and offers him double pay as well as a share in the command to serve as surgeon on his ship.
The King of Laputa
The king of Laputa is generous and courteous but, like his subjects, completely impractical. He is interested only in mathematical and scientific problems and has little interest in the practicalities of government.
Lord Munodi is a former governor of Lagado and is a great and wealthy man. However, he is regarded as a fool by the people of Laputa and Balnibarbi because he prefers to apply knowledge practically rather than consider it in abstraction. Consequently, his are the only well-run estates in the country, but he is under pressure to reform them so that they resemble all the others in their squalor and disorder.
The King of Luggnagg
The king of Luggnagg at first appears rather terrifying. Those who appear before him are required to lick the dust on the floor of his throne room. However, he receives Gulliver hospitably and later presses him to accept an appointment at court. When Gulliver refuses, the king sends him on his way with handsome gifts.
Gulliver’s Houyhnhnm Master
Gulliver’s master in part 4 is not named or given any individual characteristics and is a thoroughly representative example of a Houyhnhnm, being temperate, virtuous, entirely honest, and solely guided by reason in all matters.
Captain Pedro de Mendez
The Portuguese captain who rescues Gulliver and brings him to Lisbon is kindly, courteous, and wise. Gulliver, however, is unable to appreciate these qualities properly because he sees de Mendez as a Yahoo. The captain’s generous treatment of Gulliver, despite his sullen conduct, is a testament to his tolerance and good nature.
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