Gulliver's Travels By Jonathan Swift Summary and Analysis Part I: Chapter 2

Summary

In this chapter, the Imperial Majesty (the Emperor) and Gulliver carry on a conversation as best they can. After the Emperor's visit, six Lilliputians shoot arrows at Gulliver. Gulliver retaliates by pretending to eat the little archers and then releases them. This clemency, and Gulliver's cooperation, so impress the Imperial Council that they debate whether or not to free Gulliver. An officer takes inventory of Gulliver's possessions, which will be held until Gulliver's fate is settled upon.

Analysis

Swift makes the Lilliputians seem ridiculous by having Gulliver compare them to dolls. The little doll-like men strut and posture like full-sized men. Yet we cannot take them seriously. They are too tiny to be considered as majestic as they think they are. But "we" are not Gulliver, and he takes them seriously, especially the Emperor. Consider, for example, Gulliver's description of the Emperor: "His features are strong and masculine with an Austrian lip and arched nose, his complexion olive, his countenance erect, his body and limbs well-proportioned, all his motions graceful, and his deportment majestic." Everything that the Emperor does is respectfully detailed, which of course makes the scene even more entertaining and ridiculous.

Swift's contemporaries were doubtless amused by Gulliver's naive awe of the Lilliputian emperor. The Emperor's face clearly resembles the face of George I, yet Gulliver describes the assortment of features as handsome; George I was notoriously gross and ugly. Another political reference in this chapter concerns the list of things found in Gulliver's pockets. Normal, common, everyday possessions become unrecognizable when we see them out of proportion. To the Lilliputians, Gulliver's comb becomes a palisade. Swift is satirizing here the evidence presented against Harley and Bolingbroke in 1715. Certain Whig commissioners did their best to twist letters and books of the accused into treasonable meanings. Swift did not approve and described graphically the sinister distortions that party passion can cause in a person's mind.

Glossary

demesnes lands or estates belonging chiefly to a lord and not rented or let but kept in his hands.

draymen persons whose work involves hauling loads in a dray (a cart).

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Gulliver’s visit to Lilliput allows Swift to satirize what sort of rulers?




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