Gulliver's Travels Summary
by Jonathan Swift

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Gulliver's Travels Summary

Gulliver's Travels is a satirical novel narrated by Lemuel Gulliver, who travels the world and encounters a series of strange and fantastical cultures.

  • On his first voyage, Gulliver encounters the Lilliputians, who are miniature people. He is initially welcomed but is forced to escape after being accused of treason.
  • Next, Gulliver meets the gigantic, humanoid Brobdingnagians, who exhibit him as a sideshow attraction.
  • Gulliver then visits the flying city of Laputa, the country of Balnibarbi, and the island of Glubbdubdrib.
  • On his fourth voyage, Gulliver visits the Houyhnhnms, a race of sentient horses. They view the Yahoos, a species almost identical to humans, as savages.

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Summary

Part 1

Lemuel Gulliver, ship’s surgeon of the Antelope, escapes from shipwreck in a storm during a voyage to the East Indies. He swims to land and falls asleep, awaking hours later to find himself tied down to the ground. He is in Lilliput, a country where the people are about six inches tall. The Lilliputians take him to their capital city, where he is housed in an abandoned temple and initially treated kindly by the emperor, though he remains a prisoner. After impressing the emperor with his gentleness and ingenuity, and swearing an oath of allegiance to Lilliput, Gulliver is freed from his chains.

Gulliver assists the Lilliputians by wading across the channel that separates Lilliput from Blefuscu, a rival power which has been planning an invasion, and capturing fifty ships from the enemy fleet. The emperor of Lilliput is delighted but soon becomes angry when Gulliver will not help him to subdue and enslave Blefuscu entirely. An embassy arrives from Blefuscu to conclude a peace treaty, and Gulliver agrees to pay a visit to the island. Soon afterward, a fire breaks out at the palace. Gulliver saves the day but incurs the animosity of the empress when he extinguishes the blaze by urinating on it.

One night, Gulliver is informed that a hostile faction at court intends to have him impeached for high treason. He flees to Blefuscu, where the emperor welcomes him, despite his capture of the Blefuscudian warships for Lilliput. After a few days in Blefuscu, he sees a boat out at sea and drags it back to shore so that he can repair it and sail home. He does so all the more quickly when he discovers that an envoy has come from Lilliput to take him prisoner. The emperor of Blefuscu sends the envoy back with an equivocal answer, and Gulliver finishes his preparations and departs. After a few days, he is picked up by an English merchant ship, and a little more than six months later, he is back in England. Here he makes a substantial sum of money by exhibiting, then selling, some miniature cows he brought from Blefuscu. Having left plenty of money with his wife and children, he sets sail again.

Part 2

Gulliver sets sail on a ship called the Adventure and, after a year, finds himself in a part of the world unknown to all the sailors. They find land and go ashore for fresh water, whereupon Gulliver is separated from his shipmates and sees a man of monstrous size chasing them back to the ship. He walks through a cornfield where the corn is forty feet high and is discovered by a reaper, who brings him to the farmer. The farmer and his family treat Gulliver kindly and share their meal with him, though he is frightened by the animals in their house: a cat and dogs larger than elephants. He is attacked by rats and kills one with his sword.

The farmer decides to make money by exhibiting Gulliver in a nearby town and, when this is a success, takes him on a national tour, concluding in the capital. By this time, Gulliver is exhausted, and the farmer thinks he will soon die, so he is delighted when the Queen sees Gulliver and offers to buy him. The queen purchases Gulliver for a thousand gold pieces, and he becomes a favorite at court, except with the queen’s dwarf, a monster thirty feet in height who is always playing malicious tricks on him. Even when the dwarf is...

(The entire section is 1,295 words.)