Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels Book 1, Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
While planning his trip to Blefuscu, Gulliver receives a secret visit one night from a man of the court whom Gulliver had helped out in the past. This man explains that the Lilliputian emperor and Lilliputians in court have been secretly preparing to punish Gulliver for treason and other crimes including: urinating on the palace, refusing to enslave the Blefuscans as the emperor ordered, traitorously communing with the Blefuscan ambassadors, and planning a traitorous visit to Blefuscu. The man informs Gulliver that, though some members of court wanted Gulliver to be executed, they all worried what they would do with such a huge mass of rotting flesh. They have thus officially agreed to put out his eyes and then subsequently slowly starve him to death (so the resultant corpse will be less cumbersome).
The concealed man’s honesty saves Gulliver from the Lilliputian state’s deceptions. The Lilliputian state has, according to the man’s account, distorted its previous perspective: where it once accepted Gulliver’s urine as necessary to save the palace, it now views it as disrespectful; where it once accepted Gulliver’s friendliness to the Blefluscans as a mere nuisance, it now considers that friendliness a capital crime. The state’s deceitful plot to blind and starve Gulliver proposes a particularly gruesome abuse of physical power.
Themes
Moral vs. Physical Power Theme Icon
Society and the State Theme Icon
Truth and Deception Theme Icon
The Lilliputians emperor and court 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 speeches the man has told him about the emperor making, attesting to his own leniency as a ruler and generosity in sparing Gulliver’s life by merely putting out his eyes. Gulliver knows that it’s a tradition in Lilliput for the emperor to publish a speech about his mercy after the court decrees a cruel sentence and that, the crueler the sentence, the more emphatic the emperor’s claims about his mercy. The Lilliputians feel that “the more these praises were enlarged and insisted on, the more inhuman was the punishment, and the sufferer more innocent.” Gulliver confesses that he has no expertise in courtly matters since he is just a common man but suspects that his sentence is more on the “rigorous” than the “gentle” side.
Gulliver professes ignorance about proceedings of state and thus does not strongly assert his own perspective on the emperor’s cruelty. Still, by unveiling the emperor’s plot to blind and then starve Gulliver and by including this account of the state’s extreme hypocrisy, Swift ensures that the reader’s perspective will not be as conflicted as Gulliver’s seems to be. Indeed, the Lilliputian state is revealed to be brutal and abusive towards its subjects.
Themes
Perspective Theme Icon
Moral vs. Physical Power Theme Icon
Society and the State Theme Icon
Knowledge Theme Icon
Truth and Deception Theme Icon
Gulliver resolves to escape to Blefuscu, though he notes that, if he’d known back then “the nature of princes and ministers, which I have since observed in many other courts….I should, with great alacrity…have submitted to so easy a punishment.” He takes off at once, leaving a note saying he’s left early for his trip to Blefuscu. He is warmly welcomed at Blefuscu.
Gulliver’s reflection functions ironically. Through it, Swift darkly ridicules the brutality of European states by suggesting that the Lilliputian emperor’s horrific plot against Gulliver was “easy…punishment” in comparison to other government’s tactics.
Themes
Moral vs. Physical Power Theme Icon
Society and the State Theme Icon