Gulliver’s Travels summary by Jonathan Swift


Gulliver’s Travels summary


Gulliver’s Travels, or Travels into several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships is a prose satire of 1726 by the Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift, satirising both human nature and the “travellers’ tales” literary subgenre. It is Swift’s best known full-length work, and a classic of English literature. Swift claimed that he wrote Gulliver’s Travels “to vex the world rather than divert it.” The book was an immediate success. The English dramatist John Gay remarked “It is universally read, from the cabinet council to the nursery.”13] In 2015, Robert McCrum released his selection list of 100 best novels of all time in which Gulliver’s Travels is listed as “a satirical masterpiece”.


Part I: A Voyage to Lilliput

The travel begins with a short preamble in which Lemuel Gulliver gives a brief outline of his life and history before his voyages.

4 May 1699 – 13 April 1702

During his first voyage, Gulliver is washed ashore after a shipwreck and finds himself a prisoner of a race of tiny people, less than 6 inches (15 cm) tall, who are inhabitants of the island country of Lilliput. After giving assurances of his good behaviour, he is given a residence in Lilliput and becomes a favourite of the Lilliput Royal Court. He is also given permission by the King of Lilliput to go around the city on the condition that he must not hurt their subjects. At first, the Lilliputians are hospitable to Gulliver, but they are also wary of the threat that his size poses to them.

The Lilliputians reveal themselves to be a people who put great emphasis on trivial matters. For example, which end of an egg a person cracks becomes the basis of a deep political rift within that nation. They are a people who -revel in displays of authority and performances of power. Gulliver assists the Lilliputians to

subdue their neighbours the Blefuscudians by stealing their fleet. However, he refuses to reduce the island nation of Blefuscu to a province of Lilliput, displeasing the King and the royal court. Gulliver is charged with treason for, among other crimes, urinating in the capital though he was putting out a fire. He is convicted and sentenced to be blinded. With the assistance of a kind friend, “a considerable person at court”, he escapes to Blefuscu. Here, he spots and retrieves an abandoned boat and sails out to be rescued by a passing ship, which safely takes him back home.

Part II: A Voyage to Brobdingnag

20 June 1702 – 3 June 1706

Gulliver soon sets out again. When the sailing ship Adventure is blown off course by storms and forced to sail for land in search of fresh water, Gulliver is abandoned by his companions and left on a peninsula on the western coast of the North American continent. The grass of Brobdingnag is as tall as a tree. He is then found by a farmer who was about 72 ft (22 m) tall, judging from Gulliver estimating the man’s step being 10 yards (9 m). The giant farmer brings Gulliver home, and his daughter Glumdalclitch cares for Gulliver. The farmer treats him as a curiosity and exhibits him for money. After a while the constant display makes Gulliver sick, and the farmer sells him to the Queen of the realm. Glumdalclitch (who accompanied her father while exhibiting Gulliver) is taken into the Queen’s service to take care of the tiny man.

Since Gulliver is too small to use their huge chairs, beds, knives and forks, the Queen commissions a small house to be built for him so that he can be carried around in it; this is referred to as his “travelling box”. Between small adventures such as fighting giant wasps and being carried to the roof by a monkey, he discusses the state of Europe with the King of Brobdingnag. The King is not happy with Gulliver’s accounts of Europe, especially upon learning of the use of guns and cannons. On a trip to the seaside, his traveling box is seized by a giant eagle which drops Gulliver and his box into the sea where he is picked up by sailors who return him to England,

An Analytical Summary: I. Preface I & II:

Richard Sympson introduces the book as papers left with him by his friend Lemuel Gulliver, whom Sympson thinks was originally from Oxfordshire and had later lived in Redriff, though he’s currently retired in Nottinghamshire to escape the crowds of visitors he’d gotten at Redriff. Sympson vouches for “an air of truth” about the text and attests to Gulliver’s honesty, noting that his fellow townsmen would often emphasize something’s truth by saying “it was as true as if Mr. Gulliver had spoken it.” Sympson explains he is publishing an edited version for people’s entertainment. His edits have consisted of cutting out passages about sea travel and geographical information, which he thinks would go above the head of the common reader, as they go above his.

In the second Preface, the letter is dated 1727, written from Gulliver to Sympson. Gullives is furious with Sympson’s edits of his book, protesting Sympson’s adjustments to his story, especially the addition of a passage praising the English Queen (though Gulliver says ne respects the Queen, he insists he never would have praised her to the Houyhnhnms). He complains, too, that Sympson has muddled the details of his sea travel. He calls the hook libelous. Thus, He has received a great deal of abuse for the book

and everyone doubts the veracity of the account. Throughout the letter, Gulliver refers to human beings as Yahoos and laments the perverse world in which degenerate Houyhnhnms are enslaved by Yahoos. Though Gulliver acknowledges that he, too, is a Yahoo, he notes that he was elevated by his education among the Houyhnhnms, though some of that refinement has begun to erode during his time spent back among “your species…particularly those of my own family.”

II. Book I, Chapters 1 to 3:

Mr. Lemuel Gulliver, the narrator of Gulliver’s Travels, describes his career, education, and family. Gulliver is a surgeon in London. He has always wanted to travel, however, and becomes a surgeon traveling aboard different merchant ships. During this time, he reads extensively and learns many new languages. Gulliver grows tired of sea travel. He takes a job on the Antelope, anticipating it will be his final voyage. But a violent storm causes the Antelope to crash into a rock. As the sole survivor of the wreck, Gulliver swims to safety, landing on the island of Lilliput and falls asleep. When he wakes, his body has been tethered to the beach by the island’s six-inch-tall residents, the Lilliputians.

The Lilliputians climb on Gulliver and shoot tiny arrows at him. Gulliver could escape, but he is impressed by his captors’ bravery and remains still. The Lilliputians bring Gulliver a meal, including a drugged drink that puts him to sleep, and transport his body on an “engine” (a giant cart) to meet the emperor. Gulliver is chained to an abandoned temple, which is the only building large enough to hold him.

On his first morning in the temple, Gulliver wakes up in chains, stands up, and admires the countryside. He relieves himself inside the building but feels guilty for doing so. He resolves to make his morning duties outside, away from the temple, so servants can carry away his waste. The emperor arrives at the temple on horseback and speaks, but Gulliver cannot understand him. The emperor leaves, placing Gulliver under the watch of his guards, some of whom attack Gulliver. As punishment, they are given to Gulliver.

He pretends to eat one soldier to scare the men, but he does not hurt them and gently releases them. Gulliver’s mercy impresses the emperor’s court. He agrees to give Gulliver meals, servants, and a tutor to teach him the Lilliputian language. Gulliver learns quickly ‘ and asks to be free. The emperor refuses Gulliver’s freedom but favors giving Gulliver accommodations. Gulliver cooperates with the emperor’s order to search Gulliver for weapons. The emperor does not recognize Gulliver’s pistol, so Gulliver demonstrates its function by firing into the air. Two officers make a detailed inventory of Gulliver’s pockets. They allow Gulliver to keep most of his things, but he surrenders a knife, a razor, and the pistol.

The Lilliputians begin to like and trust Gulliver. The emperor entertains Gulliver by showing him the rope-dancers, commoners who seek government jobs. They must dance on a rope 12 inches above the ground. Whoever jumps highest while performing wins the job. From time to time, current government officials must rope dance to show that they have not become complacent in their positions. The emperor shows Gulliver another game in which he holds out a stick and government candidates either leap over or crawl under it. The top three candidates who jump and crawl the longest are given special silks to wear around their waists. Gulliver creates a new way to entertain the emperor. He builds a platform out of his handkerchief and sticks.

The emperor’s troops train and perform mock battles on the platform until a horse rips a hole through the handkerchief and gets hurt. Gulliver decides the game might be too dangerous for the Lilliputians. The Lilliputians find a giant black object on shore. Gulliver realizes the object is his hat, and it is returned to him in good shape. Two days later, the emperor asks Gulliver to wear the hat and stand like a giant statue so that the Lilliputian army can march beneath him. Gulliver is granted his freedom, but he has to follow certain conditions, including the following: he is forbidden to leave the island without permission; he must be an ally to the Lilliputians in wars; and he must help with construction projects.

III. Book I, Chapters 4 to 6:

Gulliver visits the Lilliputian capital city of Mildendo and the emperor’s palace. He is later visited by Reldresal, an official in the Lilliputian government. Reldresal tells Gulliver about the religious and political division that has plagued Lilliput for years, which stems from a disagreement over the correct way to break an egg. According to a Lilliputian philosopher, “all true believers break their eggs at the convenient end.”

Tradition dictates that eggs are to be cracked on their bigger ends. But a Lilliputian emperor passed a law stating eggs could be cracked only on their smaller ends. This outraged “Big-endians” in Lilliput. Some rebelled and were executed. Others fled to the kingdom of Blefuscu, which led to a series of wars between Blefuscu and Lilliput. Gulliver learns that rebel Big-endians remain in Lilliput and another war is brewing. He agrees to help defend Lilliput against its enemies.

Gulliver honors his promise to defend Lilliput from a Blefuscu attack. He collects the entire Blefuscu naval fleet and brings it back to Lilliput. The emperor is pleased, and gives Gulliver the title of nardac, the highest honor in the kingdom. The emperor makes an ambitious plan to destroy Blefuscu, overtake its government, and execute any Big-endians. Gulliver disagrees with the emperor, however, as he thinks it is wrong to force people into slavery.

This upsets the emperor and other officials in the government, so Gulliver falls out of favor with the emperor. Three weeks later Lilliput makes a peace treaty with Blefuscu. Gulliver asks the emperor for permission to visit Blefuscu in the future. The emperor agrees but remains cold toward Gulliver. A fire breaks out in the empress’s apartment. Gulliver extinguishes the fire by relieving himself on the building. This disgusts the empress, as public urination is illegal in Lilliput. She vows revenge on Gulliver.

In Lilliput, everything exists in proportion to the Lilliputians, including their eyesight. Lilliputians are clearly able to see objects that are close but cannot see far away. Their writing system consists of words moving on a diagonal from corner to corner of the page, rather than left to right or up and down. Gulliver notes that this is like “ladies in England.” In the Lilliputian legal system, those found guilty of crimes are punished severely. Fraud and treason are the worst crimes one can commit. Lilliputians are also rewarded for lawabiding behavior. Government officials are chosen based on their morals, not abilities.

Individuals who do not believe in Divine Providence—the Lilliputian idea of god-cannot hold office. Parents in Lilliput do not rear their own children but send them to what they call public nurseries. These nurseries are schools divided by class and by gender. Parents cre allowed to visit children at school twice a year, but they are not allowed to give gifts or show affection during these visits. Middle-class children are taught trades, and the lowest classes do not attend school at all. Girls are educated but are also prepared to become “reasonable and agreeable” wives. Gulliver is invited to have dinner with the emperor. Flimnap, the royal treasurer, also attends the dinner. He dislikes Gulliver and complains that feeding and housing Gulliver is bankrupting the kingdom. Flimnap also accuses Gulliver of having a secret affair with his wife. Gulliver denies these accusations.

IV. Book I, Chapters 7 & 8:

A government official tells Gulliver that members of the council, including Flimnap, have charged Gulliver with treason. The charges include public urination, refusing to destroy Blefuscu, and aiding the emperor of Blefuscu. The official says that Flimnap and other leaders want Gulliver to be executed for his crimes, but Reldresal, Gulliver’s friend, has convinced the officials to impose a more lenient sentence: Gulliver is to be blinded and slowly starved to death, after which his skeleton will remain as a monument. Gulliver learns his sentence will be carried out in three days. He leaves Lilliput for Blefuscu, where its people welcome him.

After three days on Blefuscu, Gulliver spies an overturned boat at sea. With the help of Blefuscu’s navy, he retrieves the ship and brings it to shore for repairs. Meanwhile, Gulliver receives orders to return to Lilliput for his punishment. The emperor of Blefuscu wants him to stay and help defend against a Lilliputian attack, but Gulliver decides to leave for home. Both Lilliput and Blefuscu find Gulliver’s leaving an agreeable solution to their problems. He takes with him food, drink, and some tiny animals from Blefuscu. After two days at sea, he is picked up by a British vessel and returns to his family in England.

V. Book II, Chapters 1 to 3:

After two months at home, Gulliver grows restless and returns to sea aboard the Adventure. A massive storm strikes, forcing the ship off its course. When the men spot an island in the distance, the captain sends a crew of 12 men, including Gulliver, to search for fresh water. The island is called Brobdingnag. Once on land, Gulliver wanders off on his own. He returns to the crew and sees the men rowing frantically back to the ship as a giant creature chases them in the water. Gulliver walks through the countryside, finding giant blades of grass and huge rows of corn. He sees several of the giants cutting down crops with scythes.

Eventually, Gulliver’ is spotted by one of the “monsters,” who are actually giant humans. A giant farmer inspects Gulliver closely and takes him home. Gulliver and the farmer’s family share a meal, during which Gulliver notes the facial imperfections visible on the giants. After dinner, Gulliver sleeps in the bed of the farmer’s wife. Two rats attack him, but Gulliver kills one and wounds the other with his sword.

The farmer’s nine-year-old daughter is fond of Gulliver and cares for him. She sews him clothing, and teaches him the native language. Gulliver calls her Glumdalclitch, which means “little nurse.” The farmer’s neighbors hear about Gulliver and want to see him. One of the neighbors suggests that the farmer should charge people to see Gulliver. Glumdalclitch doesn’t like this plan, as she fears someone might hurt Gulliver or take him away. The next day, the farmer puts Gulliver on display at an inn. Many people come to see Gulliver. Realizing how profitable Gulliver can be, the farmer decides to take him on a tour of other cities. The farmer, Gulliver, and Glumdalclitch travel to Lorbrulgrud where Gulliver makes 10 public appearances in a single day.

Gulliver is made to perform for crowds to the point of exhaustion. He loses a lot of weight and is in poor health. The farmer takes Gulliver to visit the queen, who is delighted by his performance and wants to buy Gulliver. The farmer sells him for 1,000 pieces of gold. As part of the sale, Glumdalclitch is made part of the queen’s court so she can remain with Gulliver. The queen takes Gulliver to meet the king, who thinks Gulliver is some sort of machine. Gulliver tells the king how he came to the land and that he comes from a land where everything is proportioned to his own size.

The queen has an apartment and fine clothes made for Gulliver. The queen likes Gulliver immensely and has him dine with her. The king joins them for dinner one night and asks about Europe. Gulliver tells him about customs, laws, and religion in England. The king laughs at Gulliver’s stories. Gulliver feels his country has been slighted but does not argue with the king. The queen’s dwarf grows jealous that Gulliver has become a court favorite and bullies him at meals.

VI. Book II, Chapters 4 to 6:

Gulliver describes Brobdingnag as a peninsula isolated from the rest of the continent by mountains. The city of Lorbrulgrud, and the royal palace are predictably enormous but also beautiful in their way. Gulliver travels inside a specially made box placed inside the royal coach. On one trip with Glumdalclitch, beggars approach the royal coach. Gulliver describes their shabby appearances, down to the lice on their clothes, which he finds revolting. The chapter ends with a description of the royal kitchen.

Gulliver has several accidents that nearly kill him in Brobdingnag. The queen’s dwarf drops a barrel of apples on him; he’s nearly squashed in a hailstorm; the gardener’s dog retrieves him in its mouth; a kite (bird of prey) almost carries him away in its talons; and he falls inside a molehill. The queen’s maids of honor play with Gulliver as if he is a toy. The maids often strip naked in front of him and strip him naked as well. Gulliver is repulsed by their strong smell and the sight of their bare bodies. Gulliver is taken to witness the execution of a criminal. Normally, he is not interested in such spectacles, but he is curious to see an execution on a giant scale. The queen has a rowboat and pool made for Gulliver’s exercise and entertainment.

A frog jumps into his pool and almost capsizes his boat, but Gulliver fights it away with his oars. A monkey gets loose in the palace, carries Gulliver to the roof, and feeds him like a baby. Gulliver almost chokes from the food. Glumdalclitch saves him in time and forces him to vomit. The king asks Gulliver what he would have done had a monkey attacked him in England. Gulliver says there are no monkeys there, but if a giant creature attacked he would use his sword. The king laughs at Gulliver’s response. Glumdalclitch takes Gulliver to the countryside, where he walks knee-deep into a pile of cow dung. The story amuses members of the royal court.

Gulliver fashions a comb from a piece of wood and pieces of the king’s beard stubble. He weaves a chair from the queen’s hair. He makes a purse from her hair as well, and gives it to Glumdalclitch with the queen’s permission. Gulliver entertains the king by playing a spinet, or piano, for him. The spinet is large, so Gulliver can’t press the keys, so he strikes them with giant sticks as he runs along the keyboard. Gulliver explains the structure of English government to the king. The king asked him many questions about England’s economy, politics, and society. The king is surprised to hear about violent rebellions and revolutions in British history. From his conversation with Gulliver, the king concludes that the English must be “the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.”

VII. Book II, Chapters 7 & 8:

Gulliver is upset that the king holds a low opinion of England. He fears his summary of England’s history may have represented the country unfairly. Gulliver attempts to win the favor of the king by offering to teach him how to make gunpowder, but the king is horrified to hear of something so destructive and commands Gulliver to never speak of it again. Gulliver explains that the king seems to know very little about politics and does not seem to respect the process or demands of dealing with other countries. He does describe Brobdingnag’s militia , indicating that the country has had internal struggles in the past. Gulliver criticizes the education of people in Brobdingnag for being limited to only a few subjects, even though Gulliver reads books in the kingdom.

After two years in the kingdom, Gulliver hopes to leave but does not have the means. Gulliver goes with the king and queen to a royal estate near the sea. Gulliver wants visit the ocean. Glumdalclitch carries Gulliver in his traveling box to the beach and leaves him in the care of a servant. A bird picks up the box while the servant is away and Gulliver is napping. The bird drops the box in the sea, and Gulliver is set adrift over the ocean. He worries for Glumdalclitch, knowing she will punished for losing the queen’s favorite pet. After a few hours, Gulliver feels a tugging on his box. The box strikes the side of an English vessel, and the crew pulls Gulliver to safety.

The captain speaks to Gulliver, but thinks him mad after hearing stories of Brobdingnag. Over dinner, the captain tells Gulliver how his “swimming house” was discovered at sea. The captain asks if Gulliver was a criminal exiled to death at sea. Gulliver shows the captain some items he has from his time in Brobdingnag, including a giant tooth that belonged to one of Glumdalclitch’s men. The captain encourages Gulliver to write down his stories when he gets to land. Gulliver returns home to his family. Title:

Gulliver’s Travels, original title Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, fourpart satirical work by Anglo-Irish author Jonathan Swift, published anonymously in 1726 as Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. A keystone of English literature, it was one of the books that gave birth to the novel form, though it did not yet have the rules of the genre as an organizing tool. A parody of the then popular travel narrative, Gulliver’s Travels combines adventure with savage satire, mocking English customs and the politics of the day.


As well as becoming a byword for this particularly deadpan form of satire (still often called ‘Swiftian’), and having ultimately held the office of the Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Swift is now probably best known for his Gulliver’s Travels, a mock-travelogue chronicling the round-the-world travels of the fictitious explorer Lemuel Gulliver. Although, in the years since its publication, Gulliver’s Travels has become a children’s classic, it is also trenchant in its attacks on various social, intellectual and religious hypocrisies of Swift’s age. As its author himself said, and as the popularity of this rather brutal book perhaps illustrates, ‘Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own’.

Character List: Book I Gulliver

Lemuel Gulliver is a surgeon on a ship. The last of his voyages are the strangest he has ever known. He is taken prisoner by a race of tiny men called Lilliputians. Then he becomes a pet for the giants of Brobdingnag. Later he visits a city on an island in the sky called Laputa and visits the quirky academies of Laputa’s sister island below, Balnibarbi. He talks to the dead on Glubbdubdrib and meets immortals on Luggnagg. His final adventure finds him living with horses called Houyhnhnms, discovering the deep flaws of the human race, or Yahoos, primitive humanlike creatures. Having learned about the evils of his own species, Gulliver reluctantly returns home.

Emperor of Lilliput

The emperor of Lilliput treats Gulliver well as long as he believes Gulliver is showing him respect and obedience. In fact, the emperor expects obedience from everyone in his court. Disobedience is met with a death sentence, as evidenced by the treason charges leveled at Gulliver—the result of Gulliver’s politeness toward visitors from a neighboring kingdom during peace talks—and the danger Gulliver’s friend faces in warning him about said charges.


The inhabitants of Lilliput.

They are about five to six inches tall. They are the sworn enemies of the Blefuscudians of a neighboring Island. Blefuscudians

The sworn enemies of the Lilliputians, they live on a neighboring island. Gulliver flees to their island when the Lilliputians convict him of treason.

Golbasto Momaren Evlame Gurdilo Shefin Mully Ully Gue

The Emperor of Lilliput.

Swift uses the Emperor as an example of rulers who must always have some type of support before making a decision.

Flimnap Reldresal

Lord High Treasurer of Lilliput.

A friend of Gulliver in Lilliput. He helps Gulliver settle into the strange new land and later helps to reduce Gulliver’s possible punishment for treason from execution to having his eyes put out.

Slamecksan and Tramecksan

Lilliputian political parties.

The first represents the Low Heels; the second represents the High Heels.

Mrs. Mary Burton Gulliver

Gulliver’s wife.

Book II


The inhabitants of Brobdingnag. They are giant creatures relative to Gulliver. Glumdalclitch

Glumdalclitch is the name Gulliver calls the farm girl who becomes his caretaker, as it means “little nurse.”. The girl is devoted to Gulliver, keeping him comfortable as her father works Gulliver nearly to death by making him perform for money. Although there are social to leave her family behind out of loyalty to Gulliver and a desire to

protect him after the queen buys him. Her kindness and devotion gives Gulliver a safe and comfortable life in Brobdingnag.

The Farmer

During his stay in Brobdingnag, Gulliver calls the farmer who takes him in his master. The farmer eventually sells Gulliver to the Queen. The King

Gulliver and the King of Brobdingnag spend dozens of hours discussing politics and comparing their two cultures.

The Queen

The Queen of Brobdingnag finds Gulliver very entertaining. Because of her huge size, Gulliver is disgusted when she eats.




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