Gulliver's Travels Style, Form, and Literary Elements
by Jonathan Swift

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Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Bristol. Port town in southwestern England, where the down-on-his-luck, good-natured Lemuel Gulliver begins his travels. A solid English citizen, Gulliver represents England’s optimistic, rationalistic, and scientific philosophies, which Swift abhorred. A Church of England cleric, Swift maintained that England should look back to the ancient Greeks and Romans and to the Christian Church teachings for guidance and inspiration.


Lilliput (leel-lee-pewt). Island southwest of Sumatra that is the first strange land Gulliver visits after his first ship, the Antelope, is wrecked on its coast. Lilliput is Swift’s satirical representation of the pettiness and small-mindedness inherent in church and state; its inhabitants are barely six inches tall, and features of its landscape are correspondingly tiny. Because of his immense size relative to the Lilliputians, Gulliver feels like a king and becomes an important court minister. In the manner of England’s opposing political parties, two factions of Lilliputians—the Whigs and the Tories—govern the island’s capital city of Mildeno. Despite Gulliver’s enormous size, and his ability to see everything, his shortcomings and his inability to view human nature properly become clear. While attempting to explain England’s politics to the ruler of both Lilliput (and later Blefescu) Gulliver voices Swift’s hatred for humanity in general and England’s Whig Party in particular.


Blefescu (bleh-feh-skew). Island empire that is Lilliput’s northern neighbor and archenemy; its inhabitants, like Lilliput’s, are six inches tall. While Lilliput represents eighteenth century England, Blefescu represents eighteenth century France, England’s traditional enemy. By the eighteenth century, both England and France had been fighting wars on and off for centuries for both political and religious reasons. Reminiscent of the channel that separates England from France, a channel eight hundred yards wide separates Lilliput from Blefescu. Gulliver wades across this channel, captures Blefescu’s entire fleet of warships, and delivers them to Lilliput. He comes to understand the cruelty of the Lilliputians only after they begin using him as a war machine against Blefescu.


Brobdingnag (brohb-deeng-nag). Long peninsula off California in the North Pacific that is the second strange land visited by Gulliver. In book 2 he continues his satire on Enlightenment ideals and English society in Brobdingnag, a land that accentuates human grossness because of the inhabitants’ stupendous size. After a short return to England, Gulliver boards the ship Adventure bound for India, but it is blown off course and winds up on Brobdingnag, whose people are twelve times larger than ordinary human beings. Rats are the size of lions and eat grain that grows forty feet high. Gulliver becomes a sort of pet to the giant queen. Through their dialogues, Gulliver begins to see the foolhardiness of the English court and England in general which Brobdingnag represents.


Laputa (lah-pew-tah). Circular-shaped floating island about ten thousand acres in area that hovers over the terrestrial island of Balnibari; also called the Flying Island by Gulliver. His experience in this land makes obvious just how dangerous are his rationalistic, scientific, and progressive views. On another of his ocean voyages, pirates from a Chinese vessel attack his ship and place him on a rocky island, from which intellectuals who inhabit Laputa rescue him. In their free-floating domain, these scholars literally have their heads in the clouds and do not stand on solid ground.


Balnibari (bal-nee-BAR-ee). Island between Japan and California in the North Pacific over which Laputa floats. It is ruled by an absent-minded king who endorses impractical projects put forth by his Grand Academy.


Glubbdubdrib (glahb-DUHB-drehb). Also known as the Island of Sorcerers, a small island, about fifteen hundred miles...

(The entire section is 2,845 words.)