Course Hero Logo

Gulliver's Travels | Study Guide

Jonathan Swift

Get the eBook on Amazon to study offline.

Buy on Amazon Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Gulliver's Travels Study Guide." Course Hero. 28 Nov. 2016. Web. 3 June 2023. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2016, November 28). Gulliver's Travels Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved June 3, 2023, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2016)



Course Hero. "Gulliver's Travels Study Guide." November 28, 2016. Accessed June 3, 2023.


Course Hero, "Gulliver's Travels Study Guide," November 28, 2016, accessed June 3, 2023,

Part 1, Chapter 2

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Part 1, Chapter 2 of Jonathan Swift's novel Gulliver's Travels.

Gulliver's Travels | Part 1, Chapter 2 | Summary



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.


Gulliver takes pains to describe the full state of his desperation to relieve himself as an explanation for his decision to do so inside his "house." The detail of his embarrassment demonstrates Gulliver's desire to appear civilized, both to the reader and to the Lilliputians; he wants to make a good impression, which is presumably why he did not go outdoors in the first place. Gulliver does not acknowledge this directly, but it is clear the Lilliputians left him with no instructions or plans for dealing with his excrement. As satire, this incident highlights the way governments fail to deal with the unintended consequences of decisions, in this case the decision to keep Gulliver in chains in the temple. They have to clean up a literal mess because they did not anticipate it, and only after the worst has happened do they form a plan to deal with this problem.

Gulliver's facility with languages reveals his intelligence, and his treatment of the six guards who attack him reveals his gentle nature. He could not have known the decision to show the offending guards leniency would curry favor with the emperor. He does not know the Lilliputians well enough at this point to know he might not be punished for showing them mercy. His decision to let the men go is not a calculated move, but the act of a man who refuses to exploit the weakness of others. In contrast, the Lilliputians, with their searching of Gulliver's pockets and continued resistance to granting Gulliver's freedom, appear all too willing to exploit weakness—even though Gulliver's weakness is artificially imposed—in others.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Gulliver's Travels? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!