Gulliver's Travels | Study Guide

Jonathan Swift

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Gulliver's Travels | Part 3, Chapter 10 | Summary

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Summary

Gulliver finds the Luggnaggians "polite and generous." He considers staying in the country after he learns about the "struldbrugs," people born with a mark on their foreheads signifying their immortality. Gulliver marvels at what he might learn from them and considers living in Luggnagg if he can live among the struldbrugs. He explains how he would use immortality to accumulate wealth and knowledge that he might use to benefit future generations. His outlook on the struldbrugs changes when he learns that they age as normal humans and simply cannot die, condemned instead to an eternity of senility and sickness. This is why none of them are present at court. After this revelation, Gulliver decides he wants to go home.

Analysis

The example of the struldbrugs illustrates the contrast between the typical fantasy of immortality and the potential reality of such a condition. Those who fear death and wish never to die typically approach these thoughts as Gulliver does, with the assumption that eternal youth, or at the very least some form of vitality, will be part of the bargain. The struldbrugs show that immortality is an unnatural state by going through the aging process and remaining trapped in eternally deteriorating bodies. Death is not something to be feared and avoided, but rather a natural part of the life cycle, especially if the fate of the struldbrugs is the alternative. While Gulliver initially speculates that the court does not host struldbrugs because the king does not want to listen to their wisdom, he discovers that the Luggnaggians have actually learned a great deal from the struldbrugs' example about the value of death as an endpoint to suffering. Fear of death is a normal human response that many people attempt to overcome with platitudes about death being a natural part of the life cycle. For the Luggnaggians the course of nature is not an abstract coping mechanism because they are able to see how unnatural avoidance of death can be.

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