Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels Book 2, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The start of the Adventure’s voyage goes well but a storm somewhere north of Madagascar damages the ship and sets them off course into unknown 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 the ship without him. Gulliver runs deeper into the island and realizes he is surrounded by giant grass and corn.
Gulliver’s perspective on this second voyage will be extremely different. Where Lilliput shocked him with its tininess, he is now amazed by this new land’s immensity. Note that Swift’s prose keeps pace with Gulliver’s own perspective: he does not yet know the name of the creature and so he just refers to it as a “monster.”
Themes
Perspective Theme Icon
In the cornfield, Gulliver is terrified when he runs into a group of the “monsters” carrying giant scythes. As he tries to escape them, he compares himself to a Lilliputian in a human world. He thinks, “undoubtedly philosophers are in the right, when they tell us that nothing is great or little otherwise than by comparison.”
Swift’s prose continues to match up with Gulliver’s perspective. Gulliver’s reflection emphasizes an absence of absolute truth: everything is dependent on comparison, that is, perspective.
Themes
Perspective Theme Icon
Truth and Deception Theme Icon
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 him cautiously as if he were a curious animal. Gulliver compares the giant’s gaze to his own gaze examining a weasel in England. The reaper does not crush Gulliver as Gulliver expects him to but instead responds to Gulliver’s attempts to communicate that the man’s pinch is hurting him by depositing Gulliver “gently” in his pocket and running off to show Gulliver to his master, the farmer. The farmer and others gather in awe around Gulliver, who tries to supplicate them with gold, which they don’t recognize as valuable and return to him. They try to converse but speak different languages.
From the giant’s perspective, Gulliver is simply a tiny animal and his riches are worthless. The worldly knowledge Gulliver acquired from his adventures in Lilliput enables him to recognize and empathize with the giants’ perspective. Still, Gulliver falsely assumes that the giants will choose to exert their physical power. In fact, they seem eager to privilege moral power and treat Gulliver humanely, just as the "giant" Gulliver treated the Lilliputians.
Themes
Perspective Theme Icon
Moral vs. Physical Power Theme Icon
Knowledge Theme Icon
The farmer wraps Gulliver in his handkerchief and brings him home. Gulliver has lunch with the family, who delights in watching him eat his tiny piece of their huge meal. When the farmer’s son grabs Gulliver, the farmer boxes his son’s ears until Gulliver pantomimes a request for the son’s forgiveness which the farmer grants. Gulliver kisses the son’s hand. From here on, Gulliver refers to the farmer as his “master.”
A meal’s worth of food from Gulliver’s perspective is a mere crumb from the giant’s viewpoint. Gulliver affirms his own desire to privilege moral power (and forgiveness) over physical power by kissing the son. At the same time, he supplicates himself to the farmer’s power by referring to him as “master.”
Themes
Perspective Theme Icon
Moral vs. Physical Power Theme Icon
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Gulliver is terrified by the cat and nearly squeezed to death by the baby. He observes the disgusting complexion of the farmer’s wife, then remembers that this is because her face is so much enlarged compared to his own. He recalls the beautiful skin of the Lilliputians and their horror at his. After lunch, the farmer’s wife puts him to bed under her handkerchief. While there, Gulliver is attacked by two rats the size of “mastiffs” and manages to save himself by killing one with his sword (the other is scared away).
Again, Gulliver’s worldly knowledge (of the Lilliputians) helps him make sense of his new experience. Gulliver’s perspective is as different from the giants’ as the Lilliputians’ perspective was from his in Lilliput: things that are harmless or small nuisances to the giants (pets, babies, vermin) are huge dangers for Gulliver.
Themes
Perspective Theme Icon
Knowledge Theme Icon
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 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. Gulliver asks the reader’s forgiveness for “dwelling on these…particulars” but that, while they seem insignificant, they “will certainly help a philosopher to enlarge his thoughts and imagination, and apply them to the benefit of public as well as private life,” which is Gulliver’s purpose for writing his travels in the first place.
Gulliver once again includes details about his excrement. For him, this inclusion is proof of moral power, a testament to the honesty and usefulness of his account. The uncensored truthfulness will make his adventures more imaginable to readers, which will thereby make its lessons more applicable to English lives.
Themes
Moral vs. Physical Power Theme Icon
Truth and Deception Theme Icon