Gulliver's Travels By Jonathan Swift Summary and Analysis Part II: Chapter 5

Summary

Gulliver's mishaps continue. The Queen's dwarf drops barrel-sized apples on him; hailstones as big as tennis balls batter and bruise him; a bird of prey nearly grabs him; and a spaniel picks him up in his mouth and carries him to the royal gardener. Gulliver is insulted to be coddled and played with by the maids of honor. To them, Gulliver is a toy, not a man, so they undress in front of him without a thought of modesty. The maids, perhaps comely enough, repulse Gulliver. He is particularly annoyed when they titillate themselves with his naked self.

Because Gulliver is a sailor, the Queen has a toy boat made for him and a trough in which to sail. The royal ladies also take part in the game and make a brisk breeze with their fans. Disaster strikes when a frog hops into the trough and nearly swamps Gulliver's boat, but Gulliver bravely drives the monster off with an oar. One day a monkey seizes Gulliver and carries him to the top of the palace. Gulliver is finally rescued and, when he recovers, is summoned by the King, who is curious to know whether Gulliver was afraid. Gulliver boasts that he could have protected himself with his sword. The King guffaws at the little splacknuck's pride.

Analysis

Gulliver has begun to accept the Brobdingnagian point of view, but Swift will not let him forget that he is not a giant. He may adopt certain ideas of the giants, but once Gulliver begins to have pretensions, he is literally knocked down to size. The mishaps with the hailstones, the spaniel, and the mole hole he falls into are not really serious, but they serve to discipline him. He is humiliated; none of them could have happened to a giant.

The humiliating incidents multiply. After a series of physical threats, Gulliver's emotional make-up is attacked. The maids of honor treat him as a plaything. They strip him and are curious about his maleness, but they ignore his masculinity. They offend his sexual pride by treating him as though he has no sexual significance. Then, in the abduction scene, Gulliver is likened not to a toy, but to a baby monkey. Swift continues to reinforce Gulliver's connection with animal smallness. The progression has been handled with great care. Gulliver's life was imperiled, his safety was endangered, his sexual pride was assaulted, and now he has been reduced to being monkey-like. Despite all, though, Gulliver is still tempted to brag about himself. He is still not aware that the giants are morally superior.

Glossary

Bristol barrel a barrel made in Bristol, England.

kite any of various birds of prey (e.g., hawks, eagles) with long, pointed wings and usually a forked tail.

espalier a lattice or trellis on which trees and shrubs are trained to grow flat.

cudgel a short, thick stick or club.

linnet a kind of small finch.

three tuns a tun is a large cask, especially for wine, beer, or ale.

wherry a light rowboat used on rivers.

varlet a scoundrel; knave.

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




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