Gulliver's Travels | Study Guide

Jonathan Swift

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Gulliver's Travels | Part 2, Chapter 8 | Summary

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Summary

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 to 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.

Analysis

The same dangers of nature that have made life in Brobdingnag difficult and unsustainable for Gulliver become the means of his escape when his box is taken by a bird and dropped into the sea. While Gulliver appreciates the kind treatment he has received in Brobdingnag, he also knows this treatment has come at the expense of his humanity. When the king imagines capturing a ship and possibly finding a woman for Gulliver to breed with, Gulliver's feelings about his captivity become clear. He has no desire to procreate and have his offspring suffer the same fate he has as, essentially, a caged pet. At the same time he desperately wants to live among people who are his equals.

Even though he craves the company of equals, when Gulliver is rescued, he finds those equals almost unreal to his sight. His perspective has changed during two years in Brobdingnag, so he imagines himself larger than he is and the other men on the rescue ship smaller than they are. Unlike Gulliver, these men have no fantastic experiences and know only regular-sized people. Gulliver's behavior is so odd, as are the circumstances of the rescue, that the captain's inquiry about Gulliver being a convicted criminal seems a natural one. Through the process of telling his story to the captain and offering proof of where he has been, Gulliver begins to regain the perspective on his own human world and recover from his captivity.

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