Literapedia Book Notes for

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift


Characters

  • Houyhnhnms (part IV, ch 1)—intelligent, virtuous horses with whom Gulliver lives for several years
  • Yahoos (part IV, ch 1)—humanoid beasts enslaved by the Houyhnhnms
  • Glumdalclitch (part II, chapter 2)—Gulliver's nine-year-old mistress in Brobdingnag who carries him places and takes care of him
  • Brobdingnagians (part II, ch 1)—Giant humanoids, about sixty feet tall, among whom Gulliver lives for about two years.
  • James Bates (Part I, ch 1)— the surgeon under whom Gulliver served as an apprentice.
  • William Prichard (Part 1, ch 1)— The captain of the ship, the Antelope, on which Gulliver sails on his first journey. This ship wrecks and leaves Gulliver stranded on Lilliput.
  • Mary Burton Gulliver (Part 1, ch 1)— Gulliver's wife. She lives in England and raises the kids.
  • Gulliver (Part 1, ch 1)— the protagonist and narrator of the work. He is an educated man, trained in medicine and aspects of navigation.
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Chapter Summaries


Preface
  1. A Letter from Captain Gulliver to his Cousin Sympson: Gulliver writes to his Cousin Sympson and complains about the errors he found in the recent publication of a book about his travels. Gulliver feels that much was omitted and inserted in the book, and he renounces all of the mistakes. Gulliver had hoped that the publication of his travels would help reform the despicable characteristics of the Yahoos, yet he feels that it has had no effect. He asks how anyone could question the truth behind his stories, as there are Yahoos all over the country. Finally, Gulliver praises the teachings of the Houyhnhnms and regrets ever taking on the task of publishing his adventures.
  2. In The Publisher to the Reader, Richard Sympson (the author's publisher) introduces Mr. Lemuel Gulliver as an "ancient and intimate friend" and gives a brief synopsis of how and why the novel has been edited.

A Voyage to Lilliput
  1. Gulliver describes his family, his education/apprenticeship, his career as a surgeon/doctor, and his marriage. With his surgeon business failing, Gulliver joins the crew of the ship Antelope, encounters and survives a storm out at sea, and swims to shore. He awakes to find himself tied down, the prisoner of a race of six-inch-tall humans, who feed him and carry him to the capital city.
  2. Gulliver wakes and describes his surroundings and contemplates how to relieve himself appropriately. He meets with the Emperor and then is given several teachers so he may learn the language. Gulliver describes how he is being kept within the Emperor's palace and develops kind relationships with those that serve the Emperor. His pockets are searched by these servants and his weapons are taken from him.
  3. The Lilliputians being to incorporate Gulliver more fully into their festive practices by using him as a show jumping obstacle, involving him in their mock Calvary battles, and even marching the whole of the their army between Gulliver’s legs. Stemming from this increasing friendship, Gulliver is asked to consent to articles concerning his behavior and actions in Lilliput, which he readily does.
  4. After obtaining permission from the Emperor, Gulliver visits the inner city and the palace. He also receives a visitor, the Principal Secretary of Private Affairs, who explains the political climate of Lilliput. Gulliver learns of the war with Blefuscu, the schism between the Big-Endians and the Little-Endians, and the factions of the High-heels and Low-heels.
  5. description Hunter
  6. Gulliver details the cultural institutions of the nation, stressing the emphasis placed on morality, character, and abiding by the law. After briefly detailing the ways that the natives provided him food and dress, he describes a misunderstanding over his relationship with the treasurer's wife that leads to irreparable relations between him and the treasurer.
  7. A distinguished person at court arrived at Gulliver's house and informed him of Sgyresh Bolgolam's plot to convince the court of Gulliver's guilt in committing treason and other high crimes. Thus, Gulliver set out to Blefuscu secretly before he was summoned to court.
  8. Gulliver finds a boat, which he uses to leave Lilliput and hail a ship that will return him to England. First, however, he spends a month preparing for the journey and thanking his hosts. Soon after he arrives in England, tiny sheep in tow, he decides to accept a friend’s proposal of another voyage and leaves his family again.

A Voyage to Brobdingnag
  1. The author again leaves his family in England, and is stranded on an island home to a race of "monstrous barbarians," each about sixty feet tall. He befriends a family of these giants and, after making himself comfortable in their home, fends off two rats of the same scale.
  2. Glumdaclitch, becomes Gulliver’s caretaker and teaches him the language which he soon becomes very good in. The farmer begins to use Gulliver to make a fortune and shows him to many people a day.
  3. The Queen buys Gulliver from the farmer and uses him as her entertainment. Gulliver convinces the Queen to take in Glumdalclith as well. The King and Queen are impressed by Gulliver's intelligence, and debate with him over politics. They are amused by his stories/descriptions of Europe. The palace dwarf feels that Gulliver is competition, and thus continually tries to get rid of him.
  4. The author talks about the areas in Brobdingnag in which he traveled. He describes the King’s palace, the way in which he was carried around (in a box held by Glumdalclitch, who rode in a coach). He describes an instance in which several beggars gaze at him. Gulliver is extremely disgusted by the poor hygiene of the beggars. Gulliver also describes a smaller box with windows and bolted down furniture. This box could be strapped to a horse or carried. He describes the temple and the King’s kitchen, as well as the King’s stables and horses.
  5. Gulliver relays "several ridiculous and troublesome accidents" to the reader, including an incident with the Queen's dwarf in the garden, a dangerous hail shower, a life-threatening encounter with a white spaniel, an attempted attack by a bird of prey, falling into a molehill, and stumbling over a snail shell. Gulliver also describes the time he spends with the maids of honor (which he finds repulsive and annoying). Gulliver attends a public execution. The Queen ensures that Gulliver gets a boat and a trough of water, which provides a new source of recreation. Gulliver relays more stories, specifically about getting kidnapped and taken to the roof by a monkey and landing in a pile of cow manure.
  6. Gulliver entertains the king by playing a "spinet." The king enquires into the state of Europe and Gulliver gives a lengthy description into the state of its affairs and the organization of English government and society.
  7. While visiting the seashore and wishing to return home, Gulliver is carried away in his box by a bird and then dropped into the ocean, where he floats until apprehended by a ship of English sailors. Though initially doubtful, the captain hosts Gulliver graciously and believes Gulliver when presented with his artifacts from Brobdingnag. Gulliver returns to England and marvels at the smallness of the land.

A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib, and Japan
  1. Gulliver accepts the position of surgeon on Captain William Robinson’s voyage to the East Indies. After the ship lands in Tonquin, Gulliver is put in command of a sloop. Which is taken by pirates and Gulliver is set adrift in a boat after angering a Dutchman among the pirates. Several days later Gulliver spots Laputa, gets the attention of the inhabitants, and is taken aboard the floating island.
  2. Gulliver describes the appearance and customs of the Laputans. He meets the King of Laputa and begins learning the native language. He then explains the inhabitants’ fears and worries as well as the vivacious natures of the native women.
  3. Gulliver describes the physical characteristics of the island and explains the magnetic system by which the island moves. He discovers that astronomers on the island have discovered much more than Europeans. Gulliver explains that in order to punish lands below the floating island, the king can deprive the disobedient of rain and sun or drop the island on the rebelling land. However, one town outwitted the king by building towers on all four corners of their land. These structures would break the flying island if it was to descend upon them.
  4. Gulliver leaves Laputa, conveys to Balnibarbi, and arrives at the metropolis. The author gives a description of the metropolis and the country adjoing. Gulliver is hospitably received by a great lord, with whom he has a conversation.
  5. Gulliver goes to the Grand Academy of Lagado, where he meets “scientists” engaged in seemingly useless experiments (extracting sunbeams from cucumbers, etc). Gulliver then visits a class where the students work from a machine that produces random words, a linguist that is attempting to get rid of all aspects of speech excluding nouns, and a math professor who has his students eat wafers with mathematical equations written on them.
  6. Gulliver talks further about the Academy on the island and hears various projects from the professors. He makes suggestions to the professors and they receive them kindly.
  7. Gulliver leaves Lagado and arrives at Maldonda but finds that no ship is ready to take him to Luggnagg, so instead he takes a short trip to Glubbdubdrib. On this island he is hosted by the governor of a tribe of magicians who has the power to conjure the dead into his service for 24 hours. This power enables Gulliver to speak with a great many philosophers and generals including Caesar, Cato, and Sir Thomas More.
  8. In Glubbdubdrib, Gulliver spends one whole day, calling up various figures from ancient and modern history. He realizes that several events in history occurred very differently than recorded, and in several cases, shows a deep contempt for wrongs committed by modern historians. Although entertained by certain figures, by the end of the interview, Gulliver sadly wonders at the degeneration of mankind.
  9. Gulliver departs from Glubbdubdrib and returns with his two companions on a month long voyage to Maldonada where there is a ship waiting to take him back to Luggnagg. He is detained in Maldonada and then made, by means of dispatch from the court, to go to Trildrogdrib. Along the way he hires an interpreter. He discusses the strange customs adhered to there, but finds his way into the king’s favor and sojourns there for three months.
  10. While in Luggnagg, Gulliver learns of a special class of people called Struldbuggs, who are immortal, and are so marked with a spot over their left eyebrow. Gulliver waxes about how wonderful immortality would be, and details his plans to become a 'living treasury of knowledge and wisdom' if such were his lot, but the natives tell him that in fact being a Struldbugg is horrible due to aging that creates an incredibly ghastly appearance and obliterates memories.
  11. Gulliver departed for Japan with a letter of recommendation from the king. Once in Japan, Gulliver made his way to Nangasac with the consent of the emperor. Here he met a group of Dutch sailors with whom he traveled to Redriff.

A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms
  1. Gulliver sets out as the captain of a ship, only to have his crew trap him in his cabin for many weeks before depositing him on a strange island populated by Yahoos. Disgusted by these creatures, Gulliver endeavors to leave them. He encounters Houyhnhms, observes that they are intelligent, and follows them in hope of finding humans.
  2. The author follows a Houyhnhnm to his home and dines with him and others of his species. He distinguishes himself from the Yahoos by learning basic Houyhnhnm vocabulary and cooking his own food, and is rewarded with lodging separate from the Yahoo stable.
  3. Gulliver is very keen to learn the language of the Houyhnhnms and takes lessons with his master. Gulliver is secret about the removal of his clothes, but when his master sees him, he decides that Gulliver is in fact a Yahoo, which offends Gulliver.
  4. Gulliver describes the reversed social order in England to his Master, who is intrigued by the fact that the Yahoos are the ruling class. Gulliver explains that in Europe, horses are trained for transportation and racing, while his master expresses disbelief that any huoyhnhnm would allow a yahoo on its back. His master also compares Gulliver with other Yahoos, mostly expressing Gulliver's disadvantages. Gulliver further describes his voyaging and the nature of crime and justice in England.
  5. Gulliver describes a series of conversations he had with his master about Europe. He describes the wars in Europe, the causes of those wars, and the way in which they are carried out. His master is offended by the brutality of the “Yahoos” in Europe. Gulliver also describes the concept of law and government to his master.
  6. Gulliver and his master continue their discussions about Europe. The topics of their conversations include lawyers, cuisine, doctors, government officials (specifically the "chief minister of state"), and the nobility.
  7. Gulliver is questioned by his master on the organization of English society and his fellow countrymen's behavior. His master analyzes England's system of government and the nature of Gulliver's fellow people.
  8. Gulliver observes while among the Yahoos that they are strong but timid and spiteful. The Houyhnhnms on the other hand he finds to be benevolent creatures thinking only of the good of their community even in mating.
  9. Gulliver relates the continued debate of the Houyhnhnms’ General Assembly as to whether the Yahoos should be destroyed. Described are the traditional nature of Houyhnhnm education, the excellence of their poetry, their methods of manual labor, their customs and societal perceptions of death, and the lack of terminology for evil in the Houyhnhnm language.
  10. Gulliver describes his life with the Houyhnhnms and how listening to their superior conversations and conversing with them improved him. Gulliver’s master informs him that he must leave the country and he is overcome by grief. Gulliver makes a large canoe, bids farewell to “his Honor,” and departs.
  11. Gulliver leaves the Houyhnhnms Land on his boat. He arrives at New Holland and is shot with an arrow by a native. A Portuguese ship arrives onshore and the men find Gulliver. They force him to come back with them to Lisbon. He stays with the very hospitable captain of the ship, Pedro de Mendez, for three weeks then returns to England where he feels repulsed by his family.
  12. Gulliver swears that all he has written is true. While he believes that England has a right to the new lands he has discovered, Gulliver feels that they would be very difficult to conquer. Instead, he feels that the Houyhnhnms should civilize the Europeans. Gulliver spends much of his time with his two Houyhnhnms and finds great difficulty in being around his family and other Yahoos.


Student Contributors


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