Gulliver's Travels Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Gulliver's Travels

Jonathan Swift's highly influential work is a satire on the prevailing customs, philosophy, and pretenses of European society in the 1700's. It is a tale of a ship's surgeon Gulliver, lost at sea who endures perilous adventures in many strange and mysterious lands, forced to see the world around him from a new perspective. Shipwrecked in the vicinity of Australia, he swims ashore to the land of Lilliput, collapsing from exhaustion. He awakens to find he has been tied down, overpowered by small beings six inches in height. He is subdued with arrows and spears when he attempts to free his bonds, then drugged and hoisted into a wagon of sorts to be transported into town and brought before the King. Gulliver is treated well enough with a house, bed, and food. While learning their language, they are convinced of his benevolence, unshackling his chains as he abides by a list of conditions.
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Agreeing to help fight against their mortal enemies who are launching an attack, he wades out in the harbor, captures the enemy fleet, and drags the ships back to port. He is hailed as a hero. Cleverly, he extinguishes a palace fire by urinating on the flames, incurring the wrath of the Queen. Within the royal court he is caught up in intrigue, and finds he must flee from Lilliput to Blefuscu, a rival kingdom. He chances upon a boat, then is found by a British ship. He is back in England, home with his family seven months later.

Less than two months pass before he desires to travel again at sea and camping is with the ships crew in South Africa before continuing the journey in the spring. Approaching India the ship needs fresh water and sends a search party. Gulliver is left behind when an enormous colossus sets upon the men and rowboat. He is chased into a cornfield by scythe wielding giants, now gaining an appreciation into the terror Lilliputians felt at his appearance. He is the object of great curiosity to the inhabitants of Brobdingnag. Everything is out of scale to him as he is dwarfed by cats and dogs and on par with rats.

He becomes an object of curiosity, just as he was in Lilliput, as the farmer who is housing him charges a fee to view him. The farmer sells Gulliver to the Queen as a present for his majesty the King. He is tormented by the Queen's dwarf; a spiteful “little” creature standing only 30 feet tall! He makes many observations of the Brobdingnagians, suffering injuries and inconveniences due to his diminutive stature. Apples falling from trees, hailstones, being retrieved by a spaniel, falling into a mole hole, close encounters with a frog, a monkey, a hawk, and other mishaps occur with regularity. He witnesses a beheading, sails a small boat and performs music to the amusement of his keepers. Upon departing Brobdingnag he must adjust to life among normal sized beings, no longer needing to strain to look up or shout at the top of his voice to be heard. His homecoming is a celebration for the entire family.

On Gulliver's third voyage he is aboard the ship Hope-well, heading to the East-Indies only two months after his arrival back home. At sea, the ship is taken over by pirates, her crew conscripted into servitude, and Gulliver is set adrift in a canoe with few provisions. He forages at various islands for bird eggs and water. He finds the inhabited land of Laputa just as his hope was fading. The Laputians are a mathematically inclined people, lacking in imagination and ingenuity. The flying island of Laputa is able to float in the air from one part of the King's empire to another with some limitations.

He is of little interest to the people and takes his leave to journey to Balnibarbi, a strange town where things are done contrary to the natural order. Operations are performed in opposite manners depending on the disease, blind artisans, etc. He passes through to Glubbdubdrib by ship, then to Luggnagg where he is detained, staying three months. He is awed by the rare, carefree, intellectual Struldbruggs, few in number but identified by their forehead spot. Moving on he sails to Japan then homeward aboard a Dutch ship back to England after being gone for five and a half years.

As Captain of the ship Adventure, Gulliver leaves his wife pregnant with his child after a stay of five months at home. He fares poorly in his leadership position and after a mutiny by the crew he is locked in his cabin. Set free on an unknown land, he encounters a strange hostile race of goat-like beings, who walk upright and are generally hairless. They menace him and defecate on his person before being routed by a horse. The horse called a Houyhnhnm is part of the superior race in this land where animals seem to rule. They utilize servile humans called Yahoos to do all their domestic chores. Gulliver learns their basic language to communicate.

Once again all are curious to see and hear him in this new land. Gulliver does his best to describe where is from and the manner of law and government in England. He decides they are noble creatures. Three years pass and he must depart, so he fashions a canoe with the help of a Yahoo. He makes for land but is shot with an arrow by a native. He is put on a Portuguese ship, neighing like a horse due to his previous situation, then brought to Lisbon by the gentlemanly Captain. Transferred to a British ship Gulliver is home to Rotherhith in Dec. of 1715 almost 17 years since he first put to sea. His homecoming is strained, having learned to detest humans, but he finds comfort in talking to his horses up to four hours daily.
The review of this Book prepared by David Fletcher

Chapter Analysis of Gulliver's Travels

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book Descript. of chases or violence 20%planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 10%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 20%Descript. of society, phenomena (tech), places 50% Tone of book    -   cynical or dry-wit FANTASY or SCIENCE FICTION?    -   fantasy world/fantasy past Adversaries are…    -   giants Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book GIANT monster(s)    -   Yes Cultural problems, alien culture    -   Yes Culture clash-    -   one person from different culture of other persons Intense exploration of society's culture?    -   Yes Animal Story    -   Yes Kind of animal    -   horsie

Main Character

Identity:    -   Male Profession/status:    -   doctor Age:    -   20's-30's


Terrain    -   Water Earth setting:    -   18th century Takes place on Earth?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   generic/vague references to death/punishment Sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   vague references only    -   description of breasts    -   descript. of non-breast female anat. How much dialogue?    -   little dialog

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