Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels


Jonathan Swift

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Gulliver's Travels: Book 3, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Much to his wife’s chagrin, Gulliver accepts an invitation be a surgeon and co-captain aboard the Hopewell. Though the voyage starts out well, they are soon hijacked by pirates, most of whom are Japanese. Gulliver pleads in Dutch with one Dutch pirate, begging him as a Christian and a fellow European. The Dutchmen, furious and determined to kill them all, recounts Gulliver’s plea to his Japanese companions. The Japanese captain then approaches Gulliver and tells him they wouldn’t die. As he bows in gratitude, Gulliver quips to the Dutchman that he has found “more mercy in a heathen.” This sparks the man’s fury again, such that he persuades the Japanese captains to abandon Gulliver in a small canoe with only four days provisions. (The rest of Gulliver’s crewmates are taken aboard the pirate ships.)
Though Gulliver’s worldly knowledge usually assists him by helping him empathize with and understand other people around him, here it does him no favors: instead of winning the Dutchman over, Gulliver’s ability to speak Dutch only winds up irritating the Dutchman further and landing Gulliver in an abandoned canoe.
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Thus abandoned, Gulliver rows to an island where he finds eggs to eat and begins to consider his impending miserable death before sleeping in a cave. Still feeling grim the next morning, he suddenly sees “a vast opaque body” cross the sun and move towards the island. Through his binoculars he can distinguish it is a floating island with men moving about on it. It moves closer and he bows in supplication and begs their help. They don’t understand English and speak their own language but understand Gulliver needs help and lower a chair on a chain for Gulliver to be drawn up among them.
Swift’s prose is again attuned to Gulliver’s perspective when it refers to the island in the sky as a vague, unknown thing. Gulliver assumes a pose of physical powerlessness to express his deference to the floating islanders. The posture wins them over and inspires their moral power: they altruistically rescue Gulliver from his abandonment.
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Literary Devices