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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES

PART II

CHAPTER VII

The most important thing that happens in this chapter is that we stop identifying with Gulliver as we did before.

Gulliver changes his tune. He tells us he included the material in Chapter VI only out of an "extreme love of truth," and that he was greatly pained by the king's comments. He says also that his account wasn't strictly "historical," but that he "artfully eluded many of his questions, and gave to every point a more favourable turn by many degrees than the strictness of truth would allow." He goes on to compare himself to Dionysius Halicarnassensis in an effort to prove his loyalty to his mother country. Dionysius, however, was an ancient Greek writer who lived in Rome and in his work tried to convince his countrymen that Rome was superior to Greece. So Gulliver tells us once that he has lied; and Swift turns his satire against Gulliver to again undermine his claims on the truth. No doubt you're beginning to be on your guard against what Gulliver tells you.

Gulliver tries to discredit the king's criticisms by calling attention to the seclusion in which he lives, and the resulting narrowness of his thinking. Gulliver isn't forthright, though; he says we should "make allowances" for the king. This is oily condescension. And when he says that "countries of Europe are wholly exempted" from such ignorance you can't help but exclaim over Gulliver's ridiculous vanity and narrow-mindedness. He is guilty of the very trait for which he's criticizing the king.


To prove his case against the monarch, Gulliver recounts his description and offer of gunpowder to the king. The ruler is horrified and for the first time is harsh with Gulliver, calling him an "impotent and groveling" insect. It is hard not to agree with the king, especially since Gulliver has bragged about the ability of gunpowder to dash out people's brains.

Gulliver retaliates by calling attention to examples of what he claims is the king's "ignorance." His instances, however, are of practices that seem altogether reasonable, such as the prohibition of commentaries that make laws less rather than more clear. Swift again turns his satire against Gulliver when Gulliver is telling us how inadequate he finds the king's library. He describes the way in which he is forced to read the books there-the image you get is one of an insect crawling over a majestic tome. Here it seems Swift is reinforcing the king's earlier comment about Gulliver.

CHAPTER VIII

Gulliver's liberation from Brobdingnag comes about through a spectacular accident. Gulliver had been feeling for a while that the kindness he received from the royal couple and the court "ill became the dignity of human kind." He feels more like a puppy than a human adult.

While out one day with the king and queen, an eagle takes Gulliver's box in his beak, flies with him for a while, and then drops him into the sea. Gulliver is rescued by an English ship.

Gulliver reminds us that while in Brobdingnag he couldn't bear to look at himself in the mirror-he appeared ridiculously insignificant. Now, faced with people his own size for the first time in a long while, he can't bear to look at them. The sailors were the most "contemptible creatures I had ever beheld," he tells us. No matter that they just saved his life.

NOTE:

It might seem that Gulliver is self-aware when he says "I winked at my own littleness as people do at their own faults." What he misses is that his littleness of spirit and of mind has been his fault while in Brobdingnag.

So blind, disoriented, and ego-bruised is he that he thinks of himself as Brobdingnagian and his English compatriots as Lilliputians. Given the two extremes, wouldn't you choose to be identified with the Brobdingnagians? Gulliver goes so far as to call out to travelers to get out of his way so they don't get trampled. His friends and family think he's lost his wits. Do you?

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