Gulliver's Travels


Jonathan Swift

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Gulliver's Travels: Book 2, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Gulliver thins and weakens as the Brobdingnagan farmer grows richer and richer off the shows. Thinking that Gulliver will soon die, the farmer sells him to the Brobdingnagan queen, and agrees, at Gulliver’s request, to throw Glumdalclitch into the bargain too. Left with the queen, Gulliver recounts his grueling treatment under his prior master and expresses confidence that she will treat him better. The queen is impressed by Gulliver’s intelligence and rationality and shows him to the Brobdingnagian king, who at first thinks Gulliver is a piece of clockwork.
The farmer continues to consider Gulliver nothing but a money making tool. Disturbingly, he seems to see his own daughter the same way. The queen does not expect Gulliver to possess human reason and is thus surprised to see he does. The king is just as unprepared to perceive Gulliver’s humanity and assumes he must be mechanical.
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The Brobdingnagian king orders philosophers to examine Gulliver to try to determine where he is from, dismissing Gulliver’s own claims about his origins as a story made up by Glumdalclitch and the farmer. The philosophers are thoroughly puzzled and, after much study, can only determine that Gulliver is a freak of nature. After interrogating the farmer, the king finally starts to think Gulliver might be telling the truth.
At first, the king’s perspective will only accept truth in the words of people who look like him. He assumes that Gulliver’s words must be lies. Indeed, this rigid perspective shows that the king is not as worldly as Gulliver, whose knowledge has equipped him to sympathize with and listen to people of different appearances.
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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 clothes of highest quality. The king and queen are fond of dining with Gulliver, who entertains the royal family with his descriptions of life in England. Once, the prince (ordinarily very earnestly interested in Gulliver’s accounts of Europe) observes to a table-mate “’how contemptible a thing was human grandeur, which could be mimicked by such diminutive insects as [Gulliver].” But Gulliver calls the prince’s view understandable and says that he himself had gotten so used to those around him that he would have laughed at the sight of ordinary human beings too.
Again, as Gulliver’s context and perspective shifts, his clothes shift too. The royal family members seem to be broadening their perspectives on Gulliver, though the prince’s sudden dehumanizing disdain towards him shows the limits of their view. At the same time, Gulliver’s reflection indicates how much his own perspective is being altered by his environment: human beings no longer seem “normal” to him.
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Related Quotes
Gulliver describes the biggest pests in his daily life. The Brobdingnagan queen’s dwarf enjoys torturing him. He once stuck Gulliver in the hollow of a marrow bone and once nearly drowned him in a pitcher 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, though they are visible to Gulliver). Gulliver was also dangerously attacked by wasps “as large as partridges” whose huge stingers he managed to remove and later showed as “curiosities” in England.
The dwarf cruelly abuses his physical advantage over Gulliver to humiliate him. There is a bit of a suggestion here that the dwarf, who has always been small compared to the other Brobdingnagans, is asserting the power he never could before over Gulliver. Gulliver’s struggles emphasize the difference between his perspective and the Brobdingnagans perspectives: in the case of the fly excrement, they can’t even see the thing that causes Gulliver so much discomfort.
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