Gulliver's Travels

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Excrement Symbol Analysis

Excrement Symbol Icon
In Gulliver’s Travels, excrement symbolizes the crude reality of human flesh, a fact Gulliver faces most prominently in the filthy, feces-flinging bodies of the Yahoos. Yet excrement occurs in every other one of his other adventures too: in Lilliput, Gulliver defecates on the floor of his Lilliputian home and urinates on the Lilliputians’ burning palace; in Brobdingnag, flies defecate on Gulliver’s food and maids urinate in front of him; in Laputia, the projectors attempt to transform human feces back into food. The recurring appearance of excrement anchors the novel in the body’s demands, limits, and inelegances, refusing to let its characters float off into the heady realm of purely elegant abstractions.
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Excrement Symbol Timeline in Gulliver's Travels

The timeline below shows where the symbol Excrement appears in Gulliver's Travels. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 2
Truth and Deception Theme Icon
...desperate to relieve himself so the first thing he does in his new house is defecate on the floor. He assures the reader that he only did this that one time... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 5
Perspective Theme Icon
Society and the State Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 1
Moral vs. Physical Power Theme Icon
Truth and Deception Theme Icon
...rat. After much desperate miming, Gulliver manages to convey to her that he needs to go to the bathroom , which she takes him to the garden to do in privacy behind a leaf.... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 3
Perspective Theme Icon
Moral vs. Physical Power Theme Icon
...of cream. Gulliver is also plagued by flies, which are huge compared to him and excrete on his food or lay eggs all over it (which no one else can see,... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 5
Perspective Theme Icon
Moral vs. Physical Power Theme Icon
...treated with curiosity by maids, who undress Gulliver, cradle him like a baby, dress and urinate in front of him, and play with him on their naked bodies. He is disgusted... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 5
Perspective Theme Icon
Knowledge Theme Icon
...many bizarre projects: one is working on extracting sunbeams from cucumbers; one on turning human excrement back into food; one on turning calcine ice into gunpowder; one on building houses from... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 1
Perspective Theme Icon
...comes running, but, afraid of Gulliver’s sword, simply climb up a tree and throw their feces at him. (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 7
Perspective Theme Icon
Society and the State Theme Icon
...hoard food; overeat; purge; suffer sickness from immoderation (which is cured by eating their own excrement); seek intoxication; live in filth; suck up to their leaders, then throw their excrement at... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 8
Perspective Theme Icon
Knowledge Theme Icon
Truth and Deception Theme Icon
...examination but his efforts to subdue it don’t work and the baby squirms, bites, and defecates all over Gulliver before escaping. (full context)