Gulliver's Travels

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Gulliver's Travels Book 1, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Gulliver conceives of and carries out a plan to swim across the channel separating Lilliput from Blefuscu, sew together the Blefuscians’ military fleet with a cable, and drag the lot of them back to the Lilliputians. To the Blefuscians’ astonishment and the Lilliputians’ delight, he manages this, though not without being pelted by Blefusican arrows. As soon as Gulliver returns to the Lilliputian shore, the Lilliputian emperor declares him a nardac, “the highest title of honour.”
From Gulliver’s perspective, the Lilliputians’ deep channel is just a little stream and an intimidating battle is just a matter of pulling a few toy boats across the water. Still, the Lilliputians are overjoyed by Gulliver’s performance. The nardac award honors Gulliver as societal hero and affirms his physical power is an asset to the Lilliputian state.
Themes
Perspective Theme Icon
Moral vs. Physical Power Theme Icon
Society and the State Theme Icon
The Lilliputian emperor now wants Gulliver to help enslave the Blefuscans, but Gulliver refuses on the grounds that this would be inhumane. He notes that, from that point on, the emperor treated him much more coldly.
Gulliver privileges moral power (humaneness) over physical power (Lilliputian dominance). Yet the emperor’s reaction to Gulliver shows he does not share Gulliver’s perspective.
Themes
Perspective Theme Icon
Moral vs. Physical Power Theme Icon
Society and the State Theme Icon
Three weeks later, the Blefuscans send a group of peace-offering ambassadors to Lilliput, all of whom are very warm towards Gulliver and invite him to visit Blefuscu, permission for which the Lilliputian emperor reluctantly gives. Gulliver attributes this reluctance to a rumor he’s heard that the court ministers Flimnap and Bolgolam are spreading word that Gulliver’s friendliness with the Blefuscan ambassadors was a sign of his disloyalty to Lilliput. Gulliver notes that, from this point on, he began to develop a darker view of “courts and ministers.”
From the Blefuscans’ perspective, Gulliver is not an enemy—he was simply carrying out the will of the Lilliputian emperor. Gulliver likewise sees the Blefuscans as potential new friends. Yet the Lilliputian state sees these two perspectives as a problem. It might be a sign, their rumor suggests, that Gulliver’s allegiance to Lilliput is not “true.”
Themes
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Society and the State Theme Icon
Truth and Deception Theme Icon
Though his title of nardac has relieved Gulliver of many of the kingdom-maintenance chores he’d signed up to do in exchange for liberty, he recounts one “most signal service” he was able to perform for the Lilliputian emperor. One night, there is a fire in the palace and the Lilliputians entreat Gulliver to go help stop it. The fire was due to a careless maid who fell asleep reading a novel by candlelight. Gulliver, having no instrument to put out the fire, extinguishes it by urinating on it. Though he has saved the palace, Gulliver knows that he has also broken law by urinating in the palace. Still, he feels better when he receives word that the emperor is ordering Gulliver be pardoned (though the empress, disgusted, has refused ever to live in the building again).
The symbol of excrement recurs, and again challenges propriety. Gulliver’s action is either heroic or treacherous, depending on the perspective from which it’s viewed. On the one hand, his urine saved the palace from burning to the ground. On the other hand, his urine befouled the palace and represented a tremendous disrespect.
Themes
Perspective Theme Icon
Society and the State Theme Icon
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