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Gulliver's Travels | Study Guide

Jonathan Swift

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Part 3, Chapter 3

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Part 3, Chapter 3 of Jonathan Swift's novel Gulliver's Travels.

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



Laputa is a perfectly circular island, and it stays afloat in the sky using complex engineering and a series of magnets on the island of Balnibarbi below. The capital of this realm, Lagado, is located on Balnibarbi, but by law the king and his sons must remain on Laputa. The king uses his floating island to visit different parts of the realm and monitor the cities and to collect money and goods. The king is held in check by ministers on the ground, but Laputa gives him enormous power over potential rebellions. He can deprive uncooperative cities of sunlight and rain, and in extreme circumstances, he can use the island to crush a city entirely. Rebelling cities, however, may also use magnets to prevent such drastic action.


While the Laputans' complex calculations provide little obvious benefit to mundane tasks, such as suit making, or house building, these machinations have enabled them to construct something otherwise physically impossible—a giant floating city. The power of Laputa illustrates the danger of placing all power in the hands of a monarch, and the Laputans are perhaps fortunate their king is held in check by his ministers, since he has such control over life and death. This example illustrates the danger of any leader's having absolute power, and the people of Laputa make their king literally godlike. In this light, the Brobdingnagian king's rejection of destructive warfaring techniques seems more humane.

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