Gulliver's Travels (1726)
I: Lemuel Gulliver, a ship's surgeon, is
shipwrecked at Lilliput where the inhabitants are six inches tall, except their emperor
who is taller by almost the "breadth of my nail" than any of his court. Swift
satirizes war by showing how seriously the little people wage it, and has harsh words for
the politicians and government officials. The parties are known by the height of their
heels; a dispute over the question at which end an egg should be broken is enough to
plunge Lilliput into a civil war.
II: In Brobdingnag, the natives are as
tall in proportion to Gulliver as the Lilliputians were short. He engages in lengthy
discussions with the king, who cannot understand the lofty pretentions and vanities of the
warfare; what he hears strikes the king with horror.
III: In Laputa, men abandon all common
sense and concern themselves with speculative philosophy. In Lagado, the flying island,
Gulliver is amazed to see the scientists trying to extract sunbeams from cucumbers.
IV: Gulliver visits the land of the
Houyhnhnms, where intelligent horses are the masters and the Yahoos, filthy, degenerate
human beings, are the slaves. At last, Gulliver returns to his wife and family, but finds
them impossible to live with, after having associated with the Houyhnhnms. The yahoos
represented for Gulliver the worst to which human beings could descend.
1. In the letter Captain Gulliver wrote to his cousin Sympson, how is Gulliver presented?
2. In Lilliput, Lemuel Gulliver is charmed by Lilliputians at first, but later feels disgusted. Why? Give examples.
3. In Lilliput, how do you see the Lilliputian Emperor? And Flimnap and Bolgolam?
4. In Gulliver's voyage to Lilliput, how does Swift portray Gulliver's character?
5. How is the King of Brobdingnag portrayed? How about the Queen? What does Gulliver offer to the king? In this act how is Gulliver changed?
6. Who are the Struldbruggs? Are they happy to have eternal life? Why or why not?
7. Describe the Houyhnhnms and Yahoos. What are their strength and weakness? What is your attitude toward them?
8. Who is Captain Pedro De Mendez? Why does Swift put him at the end of the book?
9. How does Swift describe women in Gulliver's Travels?
10. How would you compare Gulliver's Travels with More's Utopia since these two
works invent an ideal imaginary state and
satirize one's own society?
1. At the beginning and end of each of
the four Parts of Gulliver's Travels Swift
locates Gulliver's travels in a familiar world with exact geographical references etc.
What is the effect of this realistic style on
2. How does the realistic style
establish the narrator's persona and what are Gulliver's qualities as a narrator? Are you
inclined to believe him and do you want to hear more?
3. What is the reader's impression of the Lilliputians--at the
beginning? Later? Find the reason that cause the reader's change of opinions.
4. Discuss the size discrepancies in Gulliver's Travels. What does Swift suggest by the
smallness of the Lilliputians and the big size of the Brobdingnagians?
5. Size discrepancies point to the relativism of human nature. Find passages that
show how Swift satirizes by treating humanity as malformed and diseased, both in body and
soul, which is one of the conventions of satire.
6. Gulliver never explains conditions in
England to the Lilliputians as he does in Part II to the Brobdingnagians. What may be his
(the author's) reason?
7. Summarize your understanding of
Swift's method of narration. How does
Gulliver function as a foil to the Lilliputians and to the Brobdingnagians and by what
exactly does the author achieve satiric effect?
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