Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels


Jonathan Swift

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Gulliver's Travels: Book 2, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Gulliver recounts various accidents that befall him because of his “littleness”: he is nearly struck to death by apples that the queen’s dwarf shakes off the tree at him, is nearly crushed by hail, nearly eaten by a dog, and is pecked at by birds, who steal his food. He is also 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 by the magnified odors and flaws of their huge bodies. He nearly drowns in the trough the queen has had built for him to row in. His most dangerous run-in was with a pet monkey, who, thinking Gulliver was a baby monkey, stole him from the castle and climbed onto the roof to force-feed him. The monkey was soon captured and killed and Gulliver recovered from his injuries.
Though Gulliver’s different perspective may give him certain insights, it mostly causes him grief. Even situations that would be pleasurable in the human world—such as getting to be the only man present among a group of naked women—are grotesquely distorted in Brobdingnag. Gulliver’s physical powerlessness dehumanizes him. The naked women in fact don't consider him a man at all—they think of Gulliver as a baby. The monkey doesn’t recognize Gulliver as a human either.
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Literary Devices
Still, the Brobdingnagian king, the Brobdingnagian queen, the court, and even Glumdalclitch cannot help laughing at Gulliver’s accidents, even as they genuinely feel sorry for him. Gulliver tries to preserve his dignity but reflects “how vain an attempt it is for a man to endeavor to do himself honor among those who are out of all degree of equality or comparison with him.”
Even though the Brobdingnagans are fond of Gulliver, they can’t help seeing his crises as jokes. Gulliver’s reflection suggests that identity itself is completely dependent on perspective. A person’s dignity isn’t inherent but depends on its being recognized by the people around him.
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