Gulliver's Travels Additional Summary

Jonathan Swift


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Lemuel Gulliver, the title character of Gulliver’s Travels, is a capable, brave, and educated Englishman whose unlucky adventures drive him to sickness and madness. His simple, straightforward way of telling his story suggests that he lacks the imagination to understand what he has experienced.

Gulliver is shipwrecked off the shore of Lilliput and captured by humans only six inches tall. Practical man that he is, he promises to obey their laws controlling him. He finds Lilliput, not unlike Europe, in a state of perpetual and petty disorder. Low-heelers and High-heelers squabble over politics much as do the Whigs and Tories of Swift’s day. Courtiers compete for distinctions by leaping over sticks and other such ridiculous games. Protestants and Catholics are mirrored as Big-enders and Little-enders, who cannot agree on which end of the egg should be cracked first. The war between England and France is parodied in the conflict between Lilliput and its neighbor Blefuscu. Gulliver becomes a hero by wading into the surf and carrying off the tiny Blefuscan navy. When he puts out a fire in the palace by urinating on it, he falls from favor at court and joins the Blefuscans, who help him salvage the wrecked ship in which he makes his escape.

Gulliver’s next voyage takes him to Brobdingnag, the opposite of Lilliput. Proportions are reversed. People stand as tall as steeples. Gulliver is a caged pet exhibited as a freak. The queen buys him and brings him to court, where he is imperiled by the lewd curiosity of the ladies, by a dwarf who nearly drowns him in a bowl of cream, and by a monkey who almost dashes his brains out.

Yet Brobdingnagian society is a utopia, based on useful studies of poetry and history, not on metaphysics, theology, and speculative science, as in Europe. The king rules a prosperous state not torn by strife. In Brobdingnag, a law cannot be written using more than twenty-two words, and to comment on laws is a capital crime. Horrified by Gulliver’s description of England’s government,...

(The entire section is 837 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Lemuel Gulliver, a physician, takes the post of ship’s doctor on the Antelope, which sets sail from Bristol for the South Seas in May, 1699. When the ship is wrecked in a storm somewhere near Tasmania, Gulliver has to swim for his life. Wind and tide help to carry him close to a low-lying shore, where he falls, exhausted, into a deep sleep. Upon awakening, he finds himself held to the ground by hundreds of small ropes. He soon discovers that he is the prisoner of humans six inches tall. Still tied, Gulliver is fed by his captors; then he is placed on a special wagon built for the purpose and drawn by fifteen hundred small horses. Carried in this manner to the capital city of the small humans, he is exhibited as a great curiosity to the people of Lilliput, as the land of the diminutive people is called. He is kept chained to a huge Lilliputian building into which he crawls at night to sleep.

Gulliver soon learns the Lilliputian language, and through his personal charm and natural curiosity, he comes into good graces at the royal court. At length, he is given his freedom, contingent upon his obeying many rules devised by the emperor prescribing his deportment in Lilliput. Now free, Gulliver tours Mildendo, the capital city, and finds it to be similar, except in size, to European cities of the time.

Learning that Lilliput is in danger of an invasion by the forces of the neighboring empire, Blefuscu, he offers his services to the emperor of Lilliput. While the enemy fleet awaits favorable winds to carry their ships the eight hundred yards between Blefuscu and Lilliput, Gulliver takes some Lilliputian cable, wades to Blefuscu, and brings back the entire fleet by means of hooks attached to the cables. He is greeted with great acclaim, and the emperor makes him a nobleman. Soon, however, the emperor and Gulliver quarrel over differences concerning the fate of the now helpless Blefuscu. The emperor wants to reduce the enemy to the status of slaves; Gulliver champions their liberty. The pro-Gulliver forces prevail in the Lilliputian parliament; the peace settlement is favorable to Blefuscu. Gulliver, however, is now in disfavor at court.

He visits Blefuscu, where he is received graciously by the emperor and the people. One day, while exploring, he finds a boat from a wreck washed ashore. With the help of thousands of Blefuscu artisans, he repairs the boat for his projected voyage back to his own civilization. Taking some cattle and sheep with him, he sails away and is eventually picked up by an English vessel.

Back in England, Gulliver spends a short time with his family before he boards the Adventure, bound for India. The ship is blown off course by fierce winds. Somewhere on the coast of Great Tartary a landing party goes ashore to forage for supplies. Gulliver, who wandered away from the party, is left behind when a gigantic human figure pursues the sailors back to the ship. Gulliver is caught in a field by giants threshing grain that grows forty feet high. Becoming the pet of a farmer and his family, he amuses them with his humanlike behavior. The farmer’s nine-year-old daughter, who is not yet over forty feet high, takes special charge of...

(The entire section is 1312 words.)


(Novels for Students)

Gulliver's Travels relates the adventures of Lemuel Gulliver, an English surgeon, who, in the first quarter of the eighteenth century,...

(The entire section is 1818 words.)