Gulliver's Travels By Jonathan Swift Summary and Analysis Part III: Chapter 7

Summary

Gulliver visits Glubbdubdrib, an island populated by sorcerers. The governor of the island, who can make people disappear or return from the dead, invites Gulliver to visit with several persons brought back from the dead. Thus Gulliver discovers that Alexander was not poisoned and that Hannibal did not use fire and vinegar to destroy an impassable boulder in the Alps. Caesar and Brutus are evoked, and Caesar confesses that all his glory doesn't equal the glory Brutus gained by murdering him. History, Gulliver considers, is not what it seems.

Analysis

Chapter 7 reads more like a collection of notes for a satire on the study of history than a carefully worked-out attack. While we do not know enough about the manuscript of Gulliver's Travels to say for sure, it does appear as though Swift had worked up notes for a satire on learning and history. Then, after having dropped the project, he seems to have picked it up again and inserted the notes into the Travels. We do know, for instance, that he wrote Book III last. Signs of this book's relatively hasty composition show up especially in his treatment of Gulliver. In this section, Gulliver is less complex than previously. He is not the gullible man who poses uncomfortable questions; rather, he seems to be just a visitor relating information about the curious customs of the natives.

Nevertheless, Book III is central to the Travels. In his satire on history and the historians, Swift refutes the claims made by historians and shows that politicians have degenerated, not progressed, when he compares the Roman senate and a modern parliament. Here, also, he demonstrates that reason is not trustworthy enough to supply a foundation for politics or morality. The way has been prepared for Book IV.

Glossary

a small convenient barque (bark) any boat, especially, a small sailing boat.

obeisances gestures of respect or reverence, such as a bow or a curtsy.

domestic spectres ghostly servants.

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




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