Gulliver's Travels | Study Guide

Jonathan Swift

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Gulliver's Travels | Part 3, Chapter 4 | Summary

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Summary

After two months on Laputa, Gulliver grows bored with the residents' introspection. He lacks the knowledge of mathematics and music to converse with most of them, and instead socializes with women and servants. He does make a good friend at court who is known as "the most ignorant and stupid person among them." Despite his many accomplishments, this man has no head for numbers or music. This lord helps Gulliver arrange with the king a visit to the land of Balnibarbi below.

In Balnibarbi, Gulliver befriends another lord named Munodi. Gulliver notices ramshackle buildings and fallow fields around the capital city of Lagado and wonders what the problem is in this country. Munodi's own estate features sturdy buildings and thriving fields. Munodi explains that 44 years ago, a group of people went to Laputa and returned with some knowledge of mathematics and many plans for improving life in Balnibarbi. These "projectors" sought to rebuild the entire country according to their ideals, and established respected academies to educate the populace, but the projects are not quite complete. Munodi has kept to the old ways but fears he will soon cave to the pressure to modernize as well.

Analysis

Laputa is another land where Gulliver does not really fit in, although his differences in this case are based on intellect. The Laputans have treated him well despite his deficiencies, but Gulliver wants to feel as if he belongs, and one equal comrade is not sufficient.

The state of Balnibarbi reveals how governments often take on radical changes and sweeping projects without any real understanding of their effects and without a plan for their completion. Often radical and sweeping changes are thrust upon the populace, as they have been in Balnibarbi. The projectors—with emphasis on the project part of the word—make life materially worse for the residents of Balnibarbi in the name of progress simply for its own sake. In this case, the residents have accepted the virtues of progress without thinking critically or questioning whether the progress is beneficial. Even Munodi, who has kept to the old ways and remains prosperous, believes he will have to succumb to the tide of progress sweeping over his country.

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