Gulliver's Travels | Study Guide

Jonathan Swift

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Gulliver's Travels | Character Analysis

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Gulliver

Lemuel Gulliver is 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.

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 advantages to her acceptance at court, Glumdalclitch makes a presumably difficult decision 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 give Gulliver a safe and comfortable life in Brobdingnag.

King of Laputa

The king of Laputa, like his subjects, absorbs himself in the abstract contemplations of science, mathematics, and astronomy. At the same time, he is a monarch, subject to the abuse of power all monarchs display on some level in Gulliver's Travels. Although his power is limited by his ministers, he is not above threatening the lands he governs below with the possibility that he might use the floating island of Laputa as a weapon against them.

Houyhnhnm Master

The Houyhnhnm Master treats Gulliver with kindness and provides him with a home and sustenance, in keeping with Houyhnhnm principles of benevolence and hospitality. He also sees Gulliver as a lesser creature, not as primitive as the island Yahoos but also not terribly evolved. He is deeply critical of Gulliver's accounts of life in Europe, and his criticism eventually convinces Gulliver of his own inferiority.

Governor of Glubbdubdrib

The governor is a mysterious figure, and he tends to be feared by those who know of him. He is a necromancer, meaning he can raise the dead to serve him. He also shows Gulliver total hospitality, going beyond the standard provisions of food and shelter and offering to use his own magical gifts to allow Gulliver an extraordinary and life-changing opportunity to talk to dead leaders and scholars from the whole of history.

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