Gulliver's Travels By Jonathan Swift Summary and Analysis Part II: Chapter 1

Summary

Gulliver is home for only two months when he and the crew of the Adventure set sail for Surat. A storm blows their ship far off course. When they finally sight land, the captain sends a crew, including Gulliver, to explore. While the crew looks for drinking water, Gulliver explores another part of the island. The men are set upon by "a huge creature" that chases them into the ocean and back to their ship. Gulliver, who was investigating the shore of the new country, is left behind. Eventually, Gulliver is discovered by several of these huge creatures that are, in reality, very large (giant-like) human beings. These giants prove to be friendly and curious, and eventually one of the giants, a farmer, takes Gulliver to his farmhouse where the farmer's friendly family receives him.

Analysis

When Gulliver finds himself in Brobdingnag, Swift first sets up the size ratio. Now the tables are turned: The Lilliputians were midgets one-twelfth Gulliver's size. Now Gulliver is a midget, and the giants who inhabit Brobdingnag are twelve times Gulliver's size. Besides the size change, notice too that Swift changes perspective in another way. When Gulliver was living among the Lilliputians, he described them as being like "little men." The Brobdingnagians who capture Gulliver, however, do not think of Gulliver as a "little man" or as a "little Brobdingnagian." Some of his first Brobdingnagian acquaintances think of him as being weasel-like or like dangerous and repulsive vermin. Thus Gulliver, in retrospect, seems more humane than we might have realized. To him, the Lilliputians were never insects or vermin, no matter how odious they acted. The Brobdingnagians are a contrast; they like him, generally speaking, but he is never a man. He is a plaything, a rare pet, but never a man.

If the Brobdingnagians do not see Gulliver as a man, however, we cannot condemn them on this one count. They are a moral people, and, again and again, Gulliver will show us instances of their moral virtue. But, at the same time, he never lets us forget that they are also aliens. He admires their laws, but he cannot abide their display of vast areas of flesh. He records his disgust at their physical selves in detail because he cannot overlook, or dismiss, magnified pores and moles and stray hairs. Our own flesh, however, would be repugnant — even to us — if we were to see it through the eyes of a doll-sized man. Yet they are flesh, and we are flesh, and it is this common bond that we, and Gulliver, share with the giant Brobdingnagians. They are a positive race of people, and even if we might not be able to attain their superior morality, we might profitably try to emulate certain of their standards.

Glossary

the Line the equator.

ague a fever, usually malarial, marked by regularly recurring chills.

arch boy a clever, crafty boy.

hanger a short sword, hung from the belt.

lappet a loose flap or fold of a garment.

scabbard a sheath or case to hold the blade of a sword.

sorrel any of various short, coarse weeds.

Molucca Islands group of islands of Indonesia, between Sulawesi & New Guinea.

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




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