One day, a Luggnaggian asks Gulliver if he has seen any struldbrugs (immortals). He explains that in Luggnagg, children are occasionally born with a red spot on their forehead above the left eyebrow which indicates that that child is immortal. The spot changes colors as the struldbrug ages and immortality is not necessarily passed down to the struldbrug’s children.
This mark of immortality, positioned as it is next to the eyebrow, strongly resembles an eye. Indeed, immortality would make one “see” things differently, would greatly alter one’s perspective.
Gulliver is overjoyed to hear of the struldbrugs and exclaims what a great “happy nation, where every child hath at least a chance for being immortal!” He says he wants to ask permission to live in Luggnagg forever, talking with the struldbrugs. The Luggnaggians are amused by Gulliver’s reaction and ask him what he would do if he were granted immortality. Gulliver waxes poetic, saying he would gain great wealth, learning, and knowledge of history as it passed; he would teach young men; commune with other immortals as a group of wise men, setting a virtuous, grand example for the rest of mankind. He would watch with joy as new discoveries were made and obscure lands found over time.
Gulliver’s rhapsody demonstrates the European perspective that considers death to be the greatest evil and longs for immortality above all things. The fact that Luggnagg possesses immortal individuals makes it seem like an ideal society to Gulliver and he is eager to become a part of it.
The Luggnaggians laugh at Gulliver’s response and one explains to him that humans, like many races that lack immortals, misunderstand immortality entirely by thinking that it is the greatest good and death the greatest evil. They imagine that immortality entails perpetual youthfulness, health, wisdom, and wealth. In fact, by the struldbrugs’ example, the Luggnaggians know that as they age, immortals grow cantankerous, “peevish, covetous, morose, vain…incapable of friendship, and dead to all natural affection.” They are jealous of youth and of the ability to die. In Luggnagg, struldbrugs over age eighty are considered legally dead and their heirs can claim inheritances while they themselves are excluded from participation in society. All mortal Luggnaggians despise the struldbrugs and, indeed, once Gulliver sees them, he finds them horrible. He tells the reader he never pined after immortality again.
Because the Luggnaggians have the knowledge of first-hand experience with immortals, they possess an entirely different perspective on immortality than Gulliver does. Indeed, they recognize that the very thing European society longs for (immortality) is in actuality a tremendous hindrance and burden to society. Thus the immortal struldbrugs have to be legally excluded from society (considered dead) at a certain point to limit the social damage they might cause.