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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER II

Gulliver starts off with his first description of the land of Lilliput: the countryside is gardenlike, the city genteel enough to recall painted scenery in a theater.

Against this idyll Gulliver juxtaposes a description of his first bowel movement. He says he was caught between "urgency and shame," that he'd waited as long as he could (two days), and that he relieved himself in the temple where the offense to others would be lessened. From that day on, the Lilliputian senate appoints two servants whose job it is to carry away Gulliver's excrement in wheelbarrows.

NOTE:

Think for a minute about Swift's purpose here. Again we have an instance of high contrast between Gulliver and his hosts, with Gulliver definitely on the lower end. There's something else. At the end of his defense, Gulliver cites "maligners" who have on this and other occasions called his character into question. This draws us back to Gulliver's letter to Sympson. It also seems to be Swift referring to other of his works (A Tale of a Tub and his political writings) that caused a public outcry. You can see here why some readers have concluded that Gulliver is Swift.

We have another example of Gulliver seeing through Lilliputian eyes when he describes the emperor. How odd that Gulliver is impressed by the tallness of the monarch. He is taller than his subjects by almost the breadth of Gulliver's fingernail. To the Lilliputians, this may well be a big difference, but to Gulliver? What do you think of physical size as a criterion for the power to rule? Start thinking about the details you're given on Lilliputian government. For example, what do you think when Gulliver tells you that government officials are making money on the side by selling permits to those who wish to have a look at Gulliver? On the one hand, it's laudable that the government did something to prevent chaos in the country (whole villages were being deserted, lands were being left untended because of the mass exodus to the capital). On the other, the officials are obviously corrupt. What's more, Gulliver, who prided himself on his honesty just a chapter ago, seems undisturbed.


The government really has its hands full with Gulliver, docile as he is. Council members fear his diet could cause a famine; the stench of his carcass, were they to kill him, might pollute the entire city, even bring on the plague. Good reports on Gulliver's behavior convince the emperor not to harm him, however. So it's decreed that Gulliver shall have a suit of clothes tailored in high Lilliputian style, language lessons, and sufficient food even though it will require special additions to the national treasury.

First, though, Gulliver must swear peace to the kingdom and submit to a personal inventory (to make sure he has no weapons). The painstaking search Gulliver undergoes represents the suspicions between the Tories and the Whigs in the first quarter of the eighteenth century. In 1715 the Earl of Oxford and Viscount Bolingbroke, leaders of the Tories (by this time, Swift was also a Tory and a close friend of these men), were put under gruelling investigations by the Whigs. Gulliver in Part I has been said to represent Oxford and/or Bolingbroke, and the Lilliputians the suspicious, bureaucratic, power-hungry (Swift's view of them, at any rate) Whigs.

Gulliver-and the Tories-are not such easy marks. Gulliver does not let the Lilliputians into all of his pockets. He manages to keep secret his eyeglasses and a magnifying glass. Let's see how, or if, these instruments keep him safe from his blind spots.

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