My father had a small estate in Nottinghamshire. I was the third of five sons.See explanation of important passages
The novel begins with Lemuel Gulliver telling his life story, beginning with his family history. He was born into a family in Nottinghamshire, the third of five sons. Although he studies at Cambridge as a teenager, his family is too poor to keep him there, so he is sent to London to train as a surgeon. There, under the tutelage of a man named James Bates, he learns mathematics and navigation in hopes of travelling. After completing his education, he studied physics in Leyden.
He then becomes a surgeon on a ship calledHe swallowsSince three years. He then settles in London, works as a doctor and marries a woman named Mary Burton. His business begins to fail when his benefactor dies, so he decides to go to sea again and sails for six years. Although he plans to return home by the end of the year, he decides to take one last job on a shipAntelope.
It is so in the East IndiesAntelopegets caught in a violent storm, killing twelve crew members. Six crew members, including Gulliver, board a small boat to escape. Soon the rowing boat capsizes and Gulliver loses sight of his companions. They never see each other again. However, Gulliver swims safely to shore.
Gulliver lies down on the grass to rest and soon falls asleep. When he wakes up, he finds his hands, feet, and long hair tied to the ground with pieces of thread. He can only look up and the bright sun prevents him from seeing anything. He feels something move on his leg and chest. He looks down and to his surprise sees a six inch tall man carrying a bow and arrow. At least forty other little people climb onto his body. He gets frightened and screams loudly, scaring the little people away. However, when they come back, one of the little men shouts, "Hekinah Degul.”
Gulliver struggles to free himself and eventually manages to rip the ties binding his left arm. He unties the ropes and ties his hair to turn left. In response, the little men shoot a quiver full of arrows into his hand and brutally attack his body and face. He decides it's safest to remain silent until nightfall. The noise increases as the little men set up a tent next to Gulliver, about a foot and a half off the ground. One of them climbs it and gives a speech in a language Gulliver doesn't understand.
Gulliver states that he is hungry and the little men bring him baskets of meat. He devours everything and then shows that he is thirsty, so they bring him two large barrels of wine. Gulliver is tempted to take forty or fifty of the little men and throw them to the ground, but decides he has given them goodwill and is grateful for their hospitality. He is also impressed by their courage as they climb onto his body despite his size.
An officer climbs into Gulliver's body and tells him he needs to be taken to the capital. Gulliver wants to leave but is told he can't. Instead, they support a wooden frame that stands three inches off the ground and is supported by twenty-two wheels. Nine hundred men pull this wagon about half a mile into town. Gulliver's left leg is then fixed in a large temple, giving him just enough freedom to walk in a semicircle around the building and lie down in the temple.
Gulliver's story begins like other travel stories of his time. The description of his youth and education provides background, establishes Gulliver's place in English society, and makes the novel resemble true accounts of sea voyages published during Swift's lifetime. Swift mimics the style of a typical travelogue throughout the novel to enhance the satire. Here he creates in our minds a set of expectations, that is, a momentary belief in the truth of Gulliver's observations. Later in the novel, Swift uses a travelogue style to exaggerate the absurdity of the people and places Gulliver comes into contact with. A fictional style—one that made no attempt to appear true, accurate, or traditional—would have weakened the satire, making it irrelevant and the real storyGulliver's Travelsdo the opposite.
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Gulliver is surprised to spot the midgets, but not particularly shocked. This encounter is only the first of many in the novel in which we are asked to accept Gulliver's extraordinary experiences as merely unusual. When we see the world through Gulliver's eyes, we immediately adopt Gulliver's view of the world. But at the same time, we can take a step back and realize that the midgets are nothing more than an imaginative Swift fantasy. It is the distance between these two positions - the gullible Gulliver and the skeptical reader - that creates the story's many levels of meaning: On one level we have an adventure story. In another purely fictional adventure. and at a third level, transcending the first two and closest to Swift's original intent, a satirical critique of European claims to rationality and goodwill.
Read an in-depth analysis by Lemuel Gulliver.
Swift wroteGulliver's Travelsat a time when Europe was the dominant power in the world and England, despite its small size, rose to power thanks to the strength of its impressive navy. England's growing military and economic power brought her into contact with a variety of new animals, plants, places and things, but the most significant change brought about by European expansion was her encounter with previously unknown people - like the Native Americans, who were radically different species of being. Lilliputian's diminutive stature can be interpreted as the physical embodiment of just that kind of cultural difference.
Read more about Jonathan Swift and the story of Gulliver's travels.
The choice of height as an expression of cultural differences has a number of important consequences. The most important consequence is the radical difference in power between Gulliver and the Lilliputian nation. His physical size and strength give Gulliver a unique position in Lilliputian society, giving him responsibilities and abilities far beyond what holds him captive. Despite Gulliver's fear of the midget arrows, there is a certain condescension in his willingness to be held captive by them. The power imbalance may reflect England's position in relation to the people it colonized. It could also be a way for Swift to illustrate the importance of power in a society meant to be ruled by the law. Finally, it could be a way to destabilize humanity's place at the center of the universe, showing that size, power, and importance are all relative. Although the midgets are pitifully small in Gulliver's eyes, they are not willing to see themselves that way. Rather, they see themselves as normal and Gulliver as a strange giant. That Gulliver might be a midget even to the Englishman of another nation - a concept fully grasped in Part II - is already hinted at in the first chapter.
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