Gulliver's Travels


Jonathan Swift

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Gulliver's Travels: Book 1, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Now free, Gulliver wants to see Mildendo, the metropolis, and, by building a two-stool contraption, manages to wedge himself into the inner court to get a view into the grand rooms of the Lilliputian emperor’s palace.
This image emphasizes the immense size (and perspective) difference between Gulliver and the Lilliputians.
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Gulliver gets a visit from Reldresal, the principal secretary of private affairs, who explains that Lilliput struggles with “two mighty evils.” The first is the animosity between the Tramecksan (high-heeled shoe-wearers) and Slamecksan (low-heeled shoe-wears) and, while the Lilliputian emperor will allow only low heels in court, the Tramecksan threateningly outnumber the Slamecksan.
This first struggle of the Lilliputian state seems utterly absurd since it is based on purely superficial, physical differences (rather than on any substantial moral conundrum). Indeed, Swift will use the absurdity of Lilliput’s wars to comment on the absurdity of warfare in general.
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The second is the danger of 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 animosity with Belfuscu is rooted in a disagreement over whether to break eggs on the bigger or smaller end. “Big-Endians” have left Lilliput (which is on the side of smaller end) and have joined forces with the Blefuscians. There have been many bloody battles over the years and Reldresal has been sent to acquaint Gulliver with the situation so he can help defend Lilliput against another impending attack.
This second struggle is just as absurd as the first and further supports the subtext pointing out the ridiculousness of warfare. Though the Lilliputians have been careful to restrict Gulliver’s physical power over them, they are eager to harness his power against their enemies.
Moral vs. Physical Power Theme Icon
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