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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER III

In Chapter III we learn some of the "inner workings" of the Lilliputian political system. Bear in mind that Swift is drawing a parallel here to the court of George I.

Political offices frequently become vacant through disgrace. To gain entry into court, candidates petition to entertain the emperor; after he receives five or six such petitions he sets up a competition in which they must all do the Dance on the Rope. Whoever jumps the highest without taking a tumble gets the job. Sometimes chief ministers in midcareer are asked to make a display of their competency; Flimnap (symbolizing Robert Walpole, the leader of the Whigs), the Lilliputian treasurer, is admired for his ability to jump at least an inch higher than his peers.

Gulliver tells us that these competitions are often the cause of fatal accidents; Flimnap, in fact, would have killed himself in a recent fall had not one of the king's "cushions" broken his downward flight. The king's "cushion" represents George I's mistress, who aided Walpole in his return to power after a "fall."

It's easy to see that Lilliputian politics have their fair share of absurdity and menace. How on earth does rope jumping qualify one to hold office? That an emperor would base his hiring system on a practice proven to be injurious to many of the candidates is appalling. That great numbers of people crowd to the capital to watch these "diversions" is horrifying.


NOTE:

By ostensibly talking about the Lilliputians Swift is able to make a devastating case against the Whigs. Swift could have never made such bold accusations had he actually "named names." Satire is indeed a powerful tool.

Gulliver has been growing increasingly impatient to be unchained. The matter is hotly debated in council, where it is first decided that Gulliver must swear allegiance in the Lilliputian manner (hold his right foot in his left hand, place the middle finger of his right hand on the crown of his head, and his thumb on the tip of his right ear) to the terms set for his "full liberty." What ridiculous ceremony, but Gulliver complies.

Let's take a look at the conditions for Gulliver's freedom. The document begins with a full paragraph of some of the most overblown praise of a ruler you or I have ever read. Gulliver must perform many tasks for the kingdom, ranging from messenger to surveyor to raiser of stones, and "do his utmost to destroy" the Blefuscudian fleet. Otherwise (!), Gulliver is at "full liberty."

Gulliver reacts by prostrating himself before the emperor. Perhaps this is what captivity in a strange land would do to any of us.

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