Gulliver's Travels


Jonathan Swift

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Gulliver's Travels: Book 2, Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Gulliver says he has only included the Brobdingnagian king’s reaction to England because of his “extreme love of truth” and apologizes to the reader on the king’s behalf. He explains that he did his best to evade many of the king’s questions and to cast “a more favorable turn” to his answers “than truth would allow.” Still, he advises the reader to cut the king slack because his seclusion and ignorance of the rest of the world has left him narrow-minded and prejudiced in ways that Europeans “are wholly exempt” from.
As Gulliver apologizes for including excrement in his narrative, so he apologizes for including criticism against England. Though Gulliver appears to be apologizing for and dismissing the king’s criticism, in reality Swift has managed to voice a solid attack against the English state and society through the Brobdingnagan king’s mouth.
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Gulliver goes on to give a few examples illustrating the Brobdingnagan king’s ignorance. When Gulliver told the king about gunpowder and its immense powers of destruction and offered to help the king make it, the king was appalled by “such inhuman ideas” and wanted nothing to do with it. When Gulliver referred to the “science” of politics and political secret keeping in Europe, the king professed that he did not understand why secrets should be kept from anyone but a country’s enemies and “confined the knowledge of governing…to common sense and reason, to justice and lenity.”
Gulliver’s dismissal of the king’s ignorance is ironic. In fact, Swift constructs the prose so that the reader can clearly see that the Brobdingnagan king’s ruling principles are humane and virtuous and European politics are cruel and “inhuman,” just as the king says.
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Related Quotes
Gulliver continues, explaining the “defective” education of the Brobdingnagans, who learn only “morality, history, poetry, and mathematics,” and though they excel in these fields, they only apply mathematics to “what may be useful in life…so that among us, it would be little esteemed.” They have no concept of abstractions. Their laws are brief, blunt, and interpreted by everyone in the same way. Their literature is “clear, masculine, and smooth, but not florid.”
Gulliver’s perspective is again at odds with Swift’s. Gulliver’s professed pity for Brobdingnagan ignorance only ends up highlighting all the ways in which their society is superior to Europe. Where Europe is obsessed by impractical abstractions and over-analysis, Brobdingnag uses its knowledge practically and efficiently.
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As to their military, Gulliver explains it is not professional but instead comprised of ordinary tradesmen and farmers and led by noblemen. Still, Gulliver notes that they function perfectly, as the soldiers are very obedient since their officers are their landlords. Though Gulliver is surprised that such a geographically isolated kingdom even needs a military, he has learned that there have historically been civil wars and the military was formed to keep peace.
Brobdingnag’s successful military suggests that a state needn’t have specially appointed soldiers. Instead, people with ordinary professions could also function just as successfully as a standing militia.
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