Gulliver's Travels

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Lemuel Gulliver Character Analysis

A married English surgeon, Gulliver wants nothing to do with domestic life and leaves England repeatedly to have adventures in far-off lands. He is resourceful, open-minded, adamant about his own truthfulness, and a remarkably fast learner of new languages. Though Gulliver is glad to return to England after his first three adventures in Lilliput, Brobdingnag and Laputia, his time among the Houyhnhmns permanently darkens Gulliver’s perspective on humankind and he ends the novel disgusted by the society around him and longing for the company of Houyhnhmns.

Lemuel Gulliver Quotes in Gulliver's Travels

The Gulliver's Travels quotes below are all either spoken by Lemuel Gulliver or refer to Lemuel Gulliver. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Perspective Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Gulliver's Travels published in 2003.
Book 1, Chapter 1 Quotes

I confess, I was often tempted, while they were passing backwards and forwards on my body, to seize forty or fifty of the first that came in my reach, and dash them against the ground. But the remembrance of what I had felt, which probably might not be the worst they could do, and the promise of honor I made them—for so I interpreted my submissive behavior—soon drove out those imaginations. Besides, I now considered myself as bound, by the laws of hospitality, to a people who had treated me with so much expense and magnificence.

Related Characters: Lemuel Gulliver (speaker), The Lilliputians
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Gulliver has arrived on the island of Lilliput. He's been captured (tied down) by the Lilliputians, a race of tiny, mouse-sized people. Although the Lilliputians eventually free Gulliver from his restraints, Gulliver doesn't immediately attack the Lilliputians--and it's important to understand why.

As Gulliver puts it, he refrains from attacking the Lilliputians because he has made a promise to them. While the "promise" is ambiguous (Gulliver himself doesn't entirely understand it, and merely interprets his own behavior), it seems to force Gulliver to be peaceful. Perhaps Gulliver refuses to attack the Lilliputians because he follows the laws of hospitality--laws which hold a great deal of sway in his European homeland. As Gulliver travels across the world, he's introduced to a great number of strange cultures. Although the cultures have strange customs and rules, they all treat Gulliver with some measure of respect, offering him food and shelter. In short, Gulliver and his hosts cooperate according to the unwritten rules of hospitality: Gulliver is the visitor, meaning that he deserves some respect.

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Book 1, Chapter 2 Quotes

…taking them one by one out of my pocket…I observed both the soldiers and people were highly delighted at this mark of my clemency, which was represented very much to my advantage at court.

Related Characters: Lemuel Gulliver (speaker), The Lilliputians
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Gulliver, now friendly with the emperor of Lilliput, is presented with the "traitors" who fired arrows at him. Instead of hurting the traitors, Gulliver scares them and then releases them. He notices that his behavior has endeared him to the emperor--everyone seems delighted with his mercy.

Gulliver is something of a showman--he knows that he has to make a good impression on the emperor, and he also knows how to go about intimidating the Lilliputians, who are righty terrified of his enormous size. And yet Gulliver also seems genuinely merciful--he's given an opportunity to hurt the Lilliputians, but doesn't. For all his faults, Gulliver is still, essentially, a gentle person.

In the right coat-pocket of the great man-mountain…after the strictest search, we found only one great piece of coarse cloth, large enough to be a foot-cloth for your majesty’s chief room of state.

Related Characters: The Lilliputians (speaker), Lemuel Gulliver
Related Symbols: Clothing
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

In this famous passage, the Lilliputians—tiny people, for whom Gulliver is a “man mountain”—examine Gulliver’s possessions. Although they don’t really understand what Gulliver’s possessions are (here, for example, they have no idea that they’ve found his handkerchief), the Lilliputians offer their own unique perspective on the objects.The passage is an excellent example of defamiliarization. By showing a common object from the perspective of the Lilliputians, who've never seen such a thing before, Swift makes readers question aspects of their life that they’d otherwise take for granted. In other words, Swift’s strategy is two-fold. Here, he defamiliarizes readers with their own culture (a culture of handkerchiefs, watches, guns, etc.); later, he’ll encourage readers to see the eerie similarities between their own culture and that of the Lilliputians (and others).

Book 1, Chapter 6 Quotes

They look upon fraud as a greater crime than theft, and therefore seldom fail to punish it with death.

Related Characters: Lemuel Gulliver (speaker), The Lilliputians
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Swift makes an interesting point about Lilliput--a point that could easily be applied to Swift's own European homeland. The Lilliputians consider fraud worse than theft. As we've seen, Lilliputians seem perfectly content to commit theft on a massive scale: conquering the people of Blefescu and taking away their property, freedom, etc. And yet the Lilliputians simultaneously believe that honesty--understood in the sense of legal cooperation and trustworthiness--is of the utmost important.

In short, Lilliput is meant to be a caricature of early modern European society: a society in which legalism and bureaucracy were becoming extremely important (i.e., fraud was an extremely serious crime) and yet where the most basic forms of crime (violence, theft, genocide, practiced under the guise of imperialism) were accepted and even glorified. In the same way, we could interpret this as a satire of modern American society, in which fraud--considered a more upper-class crime--is often drastically less punished than petty theft, though one crime may ruin lives and the other be relatively victimless.

Book 1, Chapter 7 Quotes

It was a custom, introduced by this prince and his ministry…that after the court had decreed any cruel execution either to gratify the monarch’s resentment or the malice of a favorite, the emperor always made a speech to his whole council, expressing his great lenity and tenderness, as qualities known and confessed by all the world…nor did anything terrify the people so much as those encomiums on his majesty’s mercy; because it was observed that, the more these praises were enlarged and insisted on, the more inhuman was the punishment, and the sufferer more innocent.

Related Characters: Lemuel Gulliver (speaker), The Lilliputian King
Page Number: 68-69
Explanation and Analysis:

In this fascinating quotation, Gulliver describes how the emperor of Lilliput maintains power over his people. Whenever he executes someone, he makes a great show of claiming to be "merciful"--to the point where the Lilliputians come to associate mercy itself with deadly executions.

Swift is satirizing the systems of absolute monarchy of the early modern era--in which a single, volatile, all-powerful ruler aimed to be (like God) both loved and feared. In The Prince, Machiavelli argued that a great ruler had to intimidate his people into submission, to the point where even the ruler's gentleness held the possibility of more cruelty behind it--Machiavelli set the tone for centuries of absolute kings and emperors, whom Swift satirizes here. It may seem strange to say that mercy can be intimidating, but in fact we already have evidence for such an idea: Gulliver's decision to spare his Lilliputian attackers (see quote above) intimidated the people of Lilliput more, not less.

Book 2, Chapter 1 Quotes

I reflected what a mortification it must prove to me to appear as inconsiderable in this nation as one single Lilliputian would be among us.

Related Characters: Lemuel Gulliver (speaker), The Brobdingnagians
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quotation from the beginning of Gulliver's second voyage, Gulliver is discovered by a group of Brobdingnagians--giants, to whom Gulliver is as tiny as a Lilliputian is to Gulliver. Gulliver’s role is reversed—he’s now a tiny victim to his giant hosts, instead of a colossus, looming over them. The symmetrical relationship between the Lilliput voyage and the Brobdingnag voyage suggests a number of things. Life, we can see, is totally relative: Gulliver is a giant to some and a dwarf to others. Swift seems to suggest that “strangeness” is universal: Gulliver is bizarre to the Brobdingnagians in exactly the same way that the Lilliputians are bizarre to him. Since all beings are equally strange, then, the only question is: how do we treat those who are different from us—with hostility or graciousness?

This made me reflect upon the fair skins of our English ladies, who appear so beautiful to us, only because they are of our own size...

Related Characters: Lemuel Gulliver (speaker), The Brobdingnagians
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Gulliver examines the women of Brobdingnag--because they're enormous, they're not particularly beautiful to him. Indeed, Gulliver is able to see the tiny cracks and wrinkles in their skin, which frequently disgust him. (It's been suggested that Swift was responding to the recent discovery of the microscope--an invention that allowed scientists to study the tiny hairs and pores on the human body, effectively seeing the body in a new, less appealing light).

What conclusion should Gulliver draw from his observations? While Gulliver made few connections between the society of Lilliput and that of his own country, because of his experience with the Lilliputians he now seems to grasp the connection between the Brobdingnagian women and those of his home. Gulliver's women are no more or less pretty than those of Brobdingnag; if he pointed a microscope at his wife, he'd probably be just as revolted--in short, it's all a matter of perspective.

Book 2, Chapter 3 Quotes

…he observed how contemptible a thing was human grandeur, which could be mimicked by such diminutive insects as I.

Related Characters: Lemuel Gulliver (speaker), The Blefuscan King
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the King of Brobdingnag listens to Gulliver’s descriptions of human society—a society in which some humans (kings, emperors, popes, etc.) pretend to be greater and more important than others. From the perspective of an enormous Brobdingnagian, however, humans’ delusions of grandeur are pathetic—the “greatest” human is of no more importance to the King than the “greatest” termite.

In a way, the King’s insights in this quotation show what Gulliver failed to fully grasp in his first voyage with regard to the Lilliputians. All thinking beings (humans, Lilliputians, Brobdingnagians, Blefuscans) claim some kind of superiority over their peers. In the grand scheme of things, however, such claims of superiority are nonsensical--it takes a radical shift in perspective (Gulliver staring down at the Lilliputians, for example) to see how nonsensical they are. (Interestingly, the King of Brobdingnag seems not to see the connection between humans’ delusions of grandeur and those of his own way of life—i.e., he seems to be making the same mistake as Gulliver with the Lilliputians.)

Book 2, Chapter 5 Quotes

However, my speech produced nothing else besides a loud laughter, which all the respect due to his majesty from those about him could not make them contain. This made me reflect how vain an attempt it is for a man to endeavor to do himself honor among those who are out of all degree of equality or comparison with him.

Related Characters: Lemuel Gulliver (speaker), The Brobdingnagian King
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:

In this important quotation, Gulliver tries to make a grand address to his Brobdingnagian hosts--who tower over him--but finds himself unable to do so. Gulliver is too small and feeble to impress his new friends, and nothing he says can be taken seriously. The quotation is interesting, because it could be considered a metaphor for Swift's own philosophy of comedy and satire. Swift lived at a time when the institutions of society, such as family, the monarchy, and the church, were considered to be above all criticism--to criticize the Pope, for example, was practically a capital offense (in fact, it was a capital offense on many occasions).

It's hard to imagine Swift's world, since in our own era, there are very few things that are considered to be above criticism (everybody makes fun of the President, the Pope, etc.). Swift was a man ahead of his time--as he suggests here, nothing is immune from ridicule, as long as the perspective is right. The most honorable and impressive man would still seem silly and amusing if seen from the perspective of a giant. Swift the satirist is putting himself in the position of the Brobdingnagians, staring down at human folly with amusement.

Book 2, Chapter 7 Quotes

He was amazed, how so impotent and groveling an insect as I…could entertain such inhuman ideas, and in so familiar a manner, as to appear wholly unmoved at all the scenes of blood and desolation, which I had painted, as the common effects of those destructive machines, whereof, he said, some evil genius, enemy to mankind, must have been the first contriver.

Related Characters: Lemuel Gulliver (speaker), The Brobdingnagian King
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:

The King of Brobdingnag studies Gulliver's pistols, and Gulliver explains--very calmly--that people use these weapons to murder their enemies. The King is appalled that anyone, big or small, could speak so calmly of killing other people. Gulliver, for his part, seems puzzled that the King is so puzzled: he's so used to owning pistols and using them to "defend" himself that he can't understand why anybody would question his behavior.

It's ironic that the King supposes that some "enemy of mankind" invented the pistol. Logically, the King supposes, human beings themselves would never invent something that would cause them so much pain. But, as we know very well, humans did invent guns. The message is clear: people don't know what's good for them--they have an unlimited imagination for machines of pain, misery, and self-destruction.

Book 3, Chapter 2 Quotes

Their houses are very ill built, the walls bevel, without one right angle in any apartment; and this defect arises from the contempt they bear to practical geometry, which they despise as vulgar and mechanic; those instructions they give being too refined fro the intellects of their workers, which occasions perpetual mistakes.

Related Characters: Lemuel Gulliver (speaker), The Laputians
Page Number: 152
Explanation and Analysis:

In Gulliver’s third voyage, he discovers the land of Laputa, where a race of cerebral, “book smart” people live. The Laputians have no “street smarts”—they know how to do math and make music, but they can’t build houses or plan a proper city. Indeed, the Laputians seem to despise practicality of any kind—the purest and most noble exercises of the mind, they believe, are those that have no practical application whatsoever.

The Laputa section is often interpreted as Swift’s satire of the Age of Enlightenment: an era in which the “wisest” members of society engaged in brilliant philosophy and metaphysics while often avoiding more concrete applications of knowledge. Note that Gulliver believes the Laputians’ intelligence to be too “refined” for workers to understand. While Gulliver doesn’t get the irony here, readers should: the Laputians blame the working class for any mistakes in their society, even though the Laputians themselves are to blame for being so cerebral and impractical in the first place.

Book 3, Chapter 4 Quotes

They were indeed excellent in two sciences for which I have great esteem, and wherein I am not unversed; but, at the same time, so abstracted and involved in speculation, that I never met with such disagreeable companions.

Related Characters: Lemuel Gulliver (speaker), The Laputians
Page Number: 162
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Gulliver sums up his time with the Laputians. The Laputians could be considered pure Platonists: they’re obsessed with music and mathematics (the two sciences Gulliver mentions here), but think too abstractly for any other disciplines. In spite of their supposed intelligence, they’re unable to hold a simple conversation with Gulliver. (Coming from a great talker like Swift, not being able to have a conversation is a sure sign of being intellectually lacking!) They are, in short, stereotypical “ivory tower” figures—sheltered from the realities of the world. Swift suggests that for all their knowledge, the Laputians don’t have any real wisdom about the world: they’re so concerned with speculating about abstractions and the future that they can’t manage their own lives in the present.

Book 3, Chapter 8 Quotes

I was chiefly disgusted with modern history. For having strictly examined all the persons of greatest name in the courts of princes, for a hundred years past, I found how the world had been misled by prostitute writers, to ascribe the greatest exploits in war, to cowards; the wisest counsel, to fools; sincerity, to flatterers; Roman virtue, to betrayers of their country…

Related Characters: Lemuel Gulliver (speaker)
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, the Laputians take Gulliver to visit with the great leaders and thinkers of human history: Homer, Aristotle, etc. Here, Gulliver segues from the Greek and Roman leaders to the modern European kings and emperors. Surprisingly, Gulliver finds the European "greats" sorely lacking in dignity or grandeur of any kind. The reputation of a king for greatness, Gulliver realizes, is the result of "prostitute writers" who lie about kings' abilities and fool millions of people into worshipping kings as gods.

The passage is an excellent example of what Swift finds lacking in European literature. Swift sees his literary colleagues and predecessors as toadies--groveling before the kings and queens in Europe instead of "calling it like they see it." Swift also implies that reason itself is too easily manipulated to make mediocrity seem great--kings and traitors have gained a reputation for brilliance because smart people were too willing to sell their literary and legal services to the highest bidder. (The word "prostitute," it's been noted, translates to "puta" in Spanish--in other words, the very name "Laputa" is supposed to remind us of the cheapness and hypocrisy of supposed intelligence.)

Book 3, Chapter 10 Quotes

…he observed long life to be the universal desire and wish of mankind. That whoever had one foot in the grave was sure to hold back the other as strongly as he could. That the oldest had still hopes of living one day longer, and looked on death as the greatest evil, form which nature always prompted him to retreat. Only in this island of Luggnagg the appetite for living was not so eager, from the continual example of the struldbrugs before their eyes.

Related Characters: Lemuel Gulliver (speaker), The Luggnaggians
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:

In the land of Luggnagg, there are a certain number of immortal beings, known as struldbrugs. The struldbrugs live forever, but contrary to Gulliver's ideals, they're not perfect creatures. On the contrary, the struldbrugs are old, feeble, foolish, and generally contemptible--everyone in Luggnagg hates them. The Luggnagians tell Gulliver that Gulliver is wrong to think that immortality is the greatest good--actually, immortality gets pretty ugly.

The struldbrugs seem to refute the widespread belief in our society that life is the greatest good. As the Luggnaggians point out, Gulliver believes that life is an absolute good--the more life, the better. Yet the opposite is sometimes the case: when it's made a reality, an unlimited, long life can be a nightmare and a burden on the rest of society.

Book 4, Chapter 2 Quotes

The beast and I were brought close together, and by our countenances diligently compared both by master and servant, who thereupon repeated several times the word Yahoo. My horror and astonishment are not to be described, when I observed in this abominable animal, a perfect human figure.

Related Characters: Lemuel Gulliver (speaker), The Master Horse, The Yahoos
Page Number: 213
Explanation and Analysis:

Gulliver, washed up on an island after his fourth voyage, crosses paths with a Yahoo. The Yahoo at first appears to be a wild, unfamiliar creature. But on close inspection, Gulliver realizes that it’s a human being—in form and countenance no different from Gulliver himself. What’s the difference between Gulliver and the Yahoo? Although the two beings have the same body, Gulliver has culture, education, religion, and language, whereas the Yahoo has none. The Yahoo is the “raw material” of mankind—humanity with all the good parts stripped away. By juxtaposing the two creatures, the passage reminds us that deep down, human beings are savage, disgusting creatures, no different from animals—and Swift makes sure we don’t forget it.

Book 4, Chapter 3 Quotes

He replied, “that I must needs be mistaken, or that I said the thing which was not;” for they have no word in their language to express lying or falsehood. “He knew it was impossible that there could be a country beyond the sea, or that a parcel of brutes could move a wooden vessel whither they pleased upon water. He was sure no Houyhnhmn alive could make such a vessel, nor would trust Yahoos to manage it.”

Related Characters: Lemuel Gulliver (speaker), The Master Horse (speaker), The Yahoos
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:

Gulliver explains to the Master Horse of the Houyhnhnms that in his homeland, Yahoos are strong and powerful, capable of building boats and sailing around the world. The Master Horse, still convinced that Yahoos must be subservient to horses in other parts of the world, continues to assume that Gulliver's people are subservient to their own horses, and further refuses to accept that humans are capable of building anything worthwhile.

The Master Horse's comments remind us that culture and civilization are all relative: the Master Horse, in spite of his wisdom, is just as clueless about Gulliver's society as Gulliver is about the Master Horse's. And while the Houyhnhnms are mostly portrayed as virtuous and morally upright beings, Swift makes it clear that human beings are technologically cleverer--they're capable of building great boats that can travel around the world. So perhaps it's fair to say that Houyhnhnms are more virtuous than people, but people are more technologically cunning.

Book 4, Chapter 4 Quotes

Power, government, war, law, punishment, and a thousand other things, had no terms wherein that language could express them…

Related Characters: Lemuel Gulliver (speaker), The Houyhnhnms
Page Number: 225
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Gulliver describes the nature of Houyhnhnm society—a place in which dishonesty or hypocrisy of any kind are rendered impossible by the qualities of language. There's no violence or crime among the Houyhnhnms, and therefore no need for words like war, law, punishment, etc.

In short, the Houyhnhnms' society is so perfect that language itself can't tolerate even a hint of immorality. After traveling the world, Gulliver finally seems to have encountered a totally moral society. And yet, as it's often observed, the Houyhnhnms are also the most boring characters in the entire novel. They're so vanilla that they don't hold our interest in the same way as the Laputians or the Lilliputians--just because they're good doesn't mean they're interesting. The blandness of the Houyhnhnm language suggests Swift's subtle attack on his own characters--if a writer like Swift had no way to communicate war or punishment, he'd have to find a new profession!

Book 4, Chapter 5 Quotes

But when a creature pretending to reason could be capable of such enormities, he dreaded lest the corruption of that faculty might be worse than brutality itself. He seemed therefore confident, that, instead of reason we were only possessed of some quality fitted to increase our natural vices; as the reflection from a troubled stream returns the image of an ill shapen body, not only larger but more distorted.

Related Characters: Lemuel Gulliver (speaker), The Master Horse (speaker)
Page Number: 228
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, the Master Horse asks Gulliver about his own society. Gulliver explains that in Europe, people have used their intelligence to build instruments of war, causing death and destruction to their fellow men. The Master Horse is astounded that it’s possible to use intelligence for such nefarious purposes. He concludes that humans aren’t actually intelligent at all—they’ve just found a way to increase the amount of evil in the world.

The Master Horse’s comments bring up an interesting idea: do morality and reason necessarily work together? As Gulliver’s own society proves, the smart thing and the right thing aren’t necessarily one and the same. The Master Horse, used to a society in which his fellow horses use their intelligence for the betterment of one another, is naturally reluctant to believe that humans are really intelligent at all—he can’t stand the idea that morality and reason need not agree. (We’ve already seen other examples of how reason and morality can oppose one another; for example, in Laputa Gulliver realizes that the supposedly great men of the past have been just painted in a positive light by the artists and writers of the past, and weren't morally "great" at all.)

Book 4, Chapter 8 Quotes

For now I could no longer deny that I was a real Yahoo in every limb and feature, since the females had a natural propensity to me, as one of their own species

Related Characters: Lemuel Gulliver (speaker), The Yahoos
Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis:

Gulliver comes to realize that he is a Yahoo: a savage beast living in the land of the Houyhnhnms. The Yahoos are violent, stupid, and barbaric, and yet they look exactly like people—therefore, for a long time Gulliver tries to distance himself from the Yahoos, but here at last he acknowledges that he really is a Yahoo, just one with more clothing, culture, and language.

Should we take Gulliver seriously? On one hand, Swift seems to be implying that the Yahoos are the “true” versions of human beings: humans with all their pomposity, duplicity, and pretentiousness stripped away. And yet perhaps Gulliver is too quick to assume that he is a Yahoo: the reason he gives for believing so (female Yahoos think he’s attractive) doesn’t make much sense at all, and in fact reduces all of human identity to sexual desire. So maybe Gulliver is once again jumping to conclusions, just because of what his peers do and say—he’s as gullible as his name suggests.

Book 4, Chapter 12 Quotes

I could, perhaps, like others, have astonished thee with strange improbable tales; but I rather chose to relate plain matter of fact, in the simplest manner and style…

Related Characters: Lemuel Gulliver (speaker)
Page Number: 266
Explanation and Analysis:

In this ironic quotation, Gulliver insists that his story—i.e., the novel we’ve just finished reading—had been plain, simple, and straightforward. Right away, we recognize that we can’t take Gulliver seriously: contrary to what he insists, his adventures have been extremely “strange and improbable!” And yet there’s a grain of truth in Gulliver’s claim. Even if the content of his novel has been bizarre and fantastical, Gulliver’s tone has been calm and plain: instead of offering his own commentary on the events he witnesses, he explains them, leaving readers to judge for themselves. Moreover, as fantastical and bizarre as Laputa and Lilliput might be, they’re designed to reflect and parody aspects of European society. In other words, the worlds Gulliver describes aren’t that strange after all—they’re just exaggerated versions of Swift’s own society (and maybe the society we continue to live in).

I here take a final leave of all my courteous readers…to apply those excellent lessons of virtue which I learned among the Houyhnhmns; to instruct the Yahoos of my own family, is far as I shall find them docible animals; to behold my figure often in a glass, and thus, if possible, habituate myself by time to tolerate the sight of a human creatures…

Related Characters: Lemuel Gulliver (speaker), The Houyhnhnms, The Yahoos
Page Number: 270
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the novel, Gulliver makes a strange series of claims. Touched by his time among the Houyhnhnms, Gulliver finds that he can’t stand human beings anymore—he finally realizes that, deep down, humans (even own wife and children, and even himself) are just filthy animals. Seeing that he has no choice but to live among humans, he resolves to “habituate” himself to humans.

The big question at the end of the novel is—should we take Gulliver seriously? Has Gulliver finally realized the truth (that the human race is barbaric and hopeless?), or is Swift making fun of Gulliver once again for his simple-mindedness? On one hand, it’s easy to imagine Swift agreeing with Gulliver: human beings are foolish, savage, violent, etc.—the entirety of the novel impresses such a point of view on us. And yet Gulliver, in reducing all human beings to Yahoos, seems to neglect the most important part of humanity, our ability to think, create, and (crucially for Swift) write. In the end, Swift seems to have his cake and eat it, too: the only thing dumber than believing that all humans are good, kind, and civilized is believing that all humans are barbarians.

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Lemuel Gulliver Character Timeline in Gulliver's Travels

The timeline below shows where the character Lemuel Gulliver appears in Gulliver's Travels. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Preface 1: “The Publisher to the Reader”
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Richard Sympson introduces the book as papers left with him by his friend Lemuel Gulliver, whom Sympson thinks was originally from Oxfordshire and had later lived in Redriff, though he’s... (full context)
Preface 2: “A Letter from Captain Gulliver to his Cousin Sympson”
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This letter is dated 1727, written from Gulliver to Sympson. Gulliver is furious with Sympson’s edits of his book, protesting Sympson’s adjustments to... (full context)
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Throughout the letter, Gulliver refers to human beings as Yahoos and laments the perverse world in which degenerate Houyhnhnms... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 1
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Gulliver recounts his birth into modest circumstances and his background as a surgeon and then a... (full context)
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When Gulliver awakens, he finds himself tied down to the ground and surrounded by a crowd of... (full context)
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While Gulliver’s sleeping, the Lilliputians convey him onto a large carriage, which they had built specially in... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 2
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Gulliver is desperate to relieve himself so the first thing he does in his new house... (full context)
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Gulliver is fed and visited by the Lilliputian emperor, who is a human-nail’s-width taller than his... (full context)
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Gulliver is well provided for with custom-made furniture and food. He begins to learn the Lilliputians’... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 3
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The court performs its rope-dancing (tightrope-walking) and secret thread-jumping/thread-limboing for Gulliver, who explains that these games are very dangerous and are used to determine which members... (full context)
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Later Gulliver builds a platform with his handkerchief and has the Lilliputians joust on it to everyone’s... (full context)
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Gulliver realizes that the “great black substance” Lilliputians report having found on the beach is his... (full context)
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For amusement, the Lilliputian emperor has Gulliver stand upright and has his whole army march through Gulliver’s legs, ordering the soldiers to... (full context)
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Gulliver has all along been begging the Lilliputian emperor for liberty and the emperor and his... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 4
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Now free, Gulliver wants to see Mildendo, the metropolis, and, by building a two-stool contraption, manages to wedge... (full context)
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Gulliver gets a visit from Reldresal, the principal secretary of private affairs, who explains that Lilliput... (full context)
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...an impending invasion from Belfuscu, “the other great empire of the universe” (Reldresal notes to Gulliver that nobody can really believe Gulliver’s accounts of other lands beyond Lilliput and Belfuscu.) The... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 5
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Gulliver conceives of and carries out a plan to swim across the channel separating Lilliput from... (full context)
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The Lilliputian emperor now wants Gulliver to help enslave the Blefuscans, but Gulliver refuses on the grounds that this would be... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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,... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 6
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Gulliver describes life in Lilliput. He explains that, though the Lilliputians are small, their animals, surroundings,... (full context)
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Gulliver describes aspects of the Lilliputians’ legal system. If a person is found innocent by trial,... (full context)
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Gulliver goes on to describe other aspects of life in the Lilliputians’ society. Children are raised... (full context)
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Gulliver goes on to describe the prodigious efforts made by hundreds of the Lilliputian servants to... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 7
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While planning his trip to Blefuscu, Gulliver receives a secret visit one night from a man of the court whom Gulliver had... (full context)
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...plan to carry out their plot in three days, the man of the court tells Gulliver, and leaves him to decide what to do on his own. Gulliver reflects on the... (full context)
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Gulliver resolves to escape to Blefuscu, though he notes that, if he’d known back then “the... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 8
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From Blefuscu, Gulliver spies an abandoned human boat in the sea and retrieves it, planning to restore it... (full context)
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Gulliver departs with a well-stocked boat and is eventually picked up by an English merchant ship... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 1
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...waters. When they finally spot an island, they disembark and separate to look for water. Gulliver is then left behind when a huge “monster” scares his companions into rowing back to... (full context)
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In the cornfield, Gulliver is terrified when he runs into a group of the “monsters” carrying giant scythes. As... (full context)
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When one of the reapers almost steps on him, Gulliver cries out to save himself and is plucked up by a reaper who then observes... (full context)
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The farmer wraps Gulliver in his handkerchief and brings him home. Gulliver has lunch with the family, who delights... (full context)
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Gulliver is terrified by the cat and nearly squeezed to death by the baby. He observes... (full context)
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The farmer’s wife returns and is relieved to find Gulliver alive. She cleans up the mess of the dead rat. After much desperate miming, Gulliver... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 2
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Gulliver is cared for by the Brobdingnagan farmer’s nine-year-old daughter Glumdalclitch. Glumdalclitch tends him diligently, making... (full context)
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News about Gulliver spreads around town and the Brobdingnagan farmer’s miserly neighbor advises the farmer to make money... (full context)
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At the market the Brobdingnagan farmer sets Gulliver on a table and has him answer Glumdalclitch’s questions, bow to the spectators, toast them... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 3
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Gulliver thins and weakens as the Brobdingnagan farmer grows richer and richer off the shows. Thinking... (full context)
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The king orders Glumdalclitch and Gulliver housed in a special chamber and Gulliver is fixed up with a custom-made bed and... (full context)
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Gulliver describes the biggest pests in his daily life. The Brobdingnagan queen’s dwarf enjoys torturing him.... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 4
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Gulliver describes the kingdom of Brobdingnag, which is on a rocky peninsula which Gulliver surmises must... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 5
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Gulliver recounts various accidents that befall him because of his “littleness”: he is nearly struck to... (full context)
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...the Brobdingnagian king, the Brobdingnagian queen, the court, and even Glumdalclitch cannot help laughing at Gulliver’s accidents, even as they genuinely feel sorry for him. Gulliver tries to preserve his dignity... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 6
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Gulliver weaves the Brobdingnagian queen a purse out of her own hair and builds a human-sized... (full context)
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After having heard five of these lessons, the Brobdingnagian king is unsatisfied and pummels Gulliver with questions and protests of disbelief. After the next such lesson, he takes Gulliver gently... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 7
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Gulliver says he has only included the Brobdingnagian king’s reaction to England because of his “extreme... (full context)
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Gulliver goes on to give a few examples illustrating the Brobdingnagan king’s ignorance. When Gulliver told... (full context)
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Gulliver continues, explaining the “defective” education of the Brobdingnagans, who learn only “morality, history, poetry, and... (full context)
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As to their military, Gulliver explains it is not professional but instead comprised of ordinary tradesmen and farmers and led... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 8
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Having spent two years in Brobdingnag, Gulliver leaves by accident. On a trip to the ocean, a page supposed to be guarding... (full context)
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The ship’s captain helps nurse the starved and panicked Gulliver back to health. When Gulliver asks if he’d seen a giant bird, he says he’s... (full context)
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The captain points out that Gulliver is shouting and Gulliver realizes he’s gotten so used to his Brobdingnag habits that he’s... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 1
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Much to his wife’s chagrin, Gulliver accepts an invitation be a surgeon and co-captain aboard the Hopewell. Though the voyage starts... (full context)
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Thus abandoned, Gulliver rows to an island where he finds eggs to eat and begins to consider his... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 2
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Gulliver is immediately surrounded by a crowd of peculiar looking individuals. Many of them don’t hold... (full context)
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Gulliver is led to the Laputian king, who is too absorbed with solving a math problem... (full context)
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Gulliver learns that the floating island is called Laputa, a word whose etymology means “high governor.”... (full context)
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At the Laputian king’s orders, Gulliver is measured for clothes using a quadrant, a ruler, and compasses, and the resultant clothes... (full context)
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Gulliver describes life among the Laputians. Their speech relies very heavily on mathematical terms and they... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 3
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Gulliver gets permission from the Laputian king to explore the island and proceeds to describe it:... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 4
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Gulliver does not enjoy his time on Laputa. Because he doesn’t know much about mathematics or... (full context)
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Gulliver sets off for Lagado where he visits the Laputian king’s friend, Munodi. Walking about Lagado,... (full context)
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...ways and spurn Munodi’s allegiance to tradition. Munodi says that he will secure permission for Gulliver to visit the academy in Lagado after a few days’ stay at his estate. (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 5
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Gulliver visits the academy in Lagado which is housed in several decrepit buildings along a street.... (full context)
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Gulliver goes on to visit the educational wing of the academy where projector professors are giving... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 6
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Gulliver goes on to visit the academy’s political projectors, whom he judges to be totally insane.... (full context)
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Gulliver also hears projector professors debating the standards by which people should be taxed, proposing that... (full context)
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Gulliver shares with the projector professors a few political strategies he has observed in the kingdom... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 7
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Gulliver leaves Lagado and sets out planning to go to Luggnagg, an island in between western... (full context)
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Gulliver summarizes the innumerable other ghosts he had summoned by saying they were “chiefly…destroyers of tyrants... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 8
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Gulliver sets aside a day to see the ghosts of men renowned for their knowledge. He... (full context)
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Gulliver calls up Descartes and Gassendi to school Aristotle in their systems. Aristotle freely admits his... (full context)
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Gulliver then calls up the modern deceased and meets the royalty and aristocracy of Europe, in... (full context)
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Continuing in this conversation, Gulliver learns that all of history’s good statesmen and virtuous leaders are remembered as traitorous villains.... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 9
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Gulliver leaves Glubbdubdrib for Luggnagg. On the ship to Luggnagg, Gulliver lies and says he is... (full context)
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Gulliver applies for and receives permission to visit Trildrogdrib, where the Luggnaggian king and court reside.... (full context)
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The Luggnaggian king is pleased with Gulliver and provides him and his Luggnaggian interpreter with food and lodging for the three months... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 10
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One day, a Luggnaggian asks Gulliver if he has seen any struldbrugs (immortals). He explains that in Luggnagg, children are occasionally... (full context)
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Gulliver is overjoyed to hear of the struldbrugs and exclaims what a great “happy nation, where... (full context)
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The Luggnaggians laugh at Gulliver’s response and one explains to him that humans, like many races that lack immortals, misunderstand... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 11
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Though the Luggnaggian king wishes Gulliver to stay in Luggnagg, Gulliver insists on leaving and so the king sends him off... (full context)
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Gulliver sails back to England on a Dutch ship, successfully convincing the sailors that he, too,... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 1
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After five months in England (just long enough to impregnate his wife), Gulliver sets out to sea again, this time as captain of the Adventure, an offer made... (full context)
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Gulliver begins to walk inland and runs into “ugly” “animals” with thick hair on their heads,... (full context)
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Suddenly, all the animals run away and Gulliver sees they have been scared away by a horse. When he tries to pet the... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 2
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This horse leads Gulliver to a house and Gulliver readies the toys and jewelry he always carries to give... (full context)
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Gulliver observes the power dynamics between the horses and sees the gray horse is the master... (full context)
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The master horse tries to feed Gulliver the meat the Yahoos eat but Gulliver is disgusted and gestures for milk. The horse... (full context)
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Come evening, the master horse lodges Gulliver in a place behind “the house” but separate from “the stable of the Yahoos.” (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 3
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Gulliver proceeds to study the Houyhnhnm’s language under the tutelage of the master horse, a kind... (full context)
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Once Gulliver gains enough fluency, he begins to tell the master horse about Europe, asking the master... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 4
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The master horse is astounded by Gulliver’s account and has a hard time believing the conditions of Houyhnhnms in European society or... (full context)
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The master horse asks Gulliver if all European Yahoos look like him and Gulliver begins proudly to recount his and... (full context)
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Gulliver describes his past up till the present but has to spend many hours clarifying the... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 5
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Gulliver summarizes the various discussions he had with the master horse over the course of two... (full context)
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When Gulliver recounts the endless petty wars and unjustified violence among European states, the master horse reflects... (full context)
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When Gulliver describes the “science” of European law, he describes lawyers as liars trained to manipulate language... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 6
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...the master horse expresses bafflement as to why lawyers would engage in such loathsome work, Gulliver tries to explain the concept of money and the human thirst for it. This leads... (full context)
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Gulliver goes on to describe statesmen, explaining that the chief minister of state is a person... (full context)
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When the master horse remarks that Gulliver’s superior appearance to the Yahoos of the Houyhnhnms must bespeak his nobility. Gulliver corrects this... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 7
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Gulliver justifies his grim portrait of humankind to the reader, explaining that his time among the... (full context)
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The master horse, having reflected on Gulliver’s portrait of humankind, concludes that the European Yahoos are “animals, to whose share…some small pittance... (full context)
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The master horse continues, saying that, apart from their physical inferiority, the European Yahoos Gulliver has described resemble the Yahoos of the Houyhnhnms in countless other respects. The Yahoos of... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 8
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Gulliver often goes out to study the Yahoos in order to learn more about human nature.... (full context)
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Gulliver explains that, among the Houyhnhmns, the Yahoos are kept in kennels, sent to dig up... (full context)
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Gulliver goes on to describe the ways of the Houyhnhnms. Their reason is so perfect and... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 9
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Gulliver recounts the proceedings of one of the Houyhnhnms’ councils as relayed to him by the... (full context)
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Gulliver proceeds to detail more of the Houyhnhmns cultural features. They make excellent wound dressings; they... (full context)
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Gulliver explains that the Houyhnhnms have no words for evil and thus, to express anything bad,... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 10
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Gulliver describes his happy contentment living with the master horse. A room has been built for... (full context)
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Gulliver explains that, although he didn’t feel so fond of the Houyhnhmns when he first arrived... (full context)
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One day, the master horse sends for Gulliver and explains that, at the council, the Houyhnhnms had confirmed that it wasn’t right for... (full context)
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In parting, Gulliver kisses the hoof of the master horse. He acknowledges that “detractors are pleased to think... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 11
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Gulliver resolves that he would rather live out the rest of his life on an uninhabited... (full context)
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During the rest of the voyage, Don Pedro acts tenderly towards Gulliver, listening to him and gradually beginning to believe his stories (even though he first seems... (full context)
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Gulliver sails back to England where his family, it turns out, has presumed him dead. He... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 12
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Gulliver addresses the reader, explaining that he has written his travels only worrying about the plain... (full context)
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Gulliver confesses that he knows that travel writers “like dictionary-makers” are quickly outshone by new editions... (full context)
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Gulliver is pleased that his book will “meet with no censurers,” because surely no one will... (full context)
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In response to those who have suggested Gulliver should have laid claim to the lands he discovered for England, he points out that... (full context)
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Gulliver announces that “having thus answered the only objection that can ever be raised against me... (full context)