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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER IV

We get further comparisons between Lilliput and England. Reldresal, a Lilliputian government officer (who represents Walpole's successor), pays Gulliver a special visit. His purpose is to acquaint Gulliver further with domestic and international politics, and to enlist Gulliver's aid. There is, he says, "a violent faction at home [corresponding to the Tories], and the danger of an invasion by a most potent enemy [representing France] from abroad."

In Lilliput, the warring parties are the High-Heels (the Tories) and the Low-Heels (the Whigs). Just as George I favored the Whigs, so the Lilliputian emperor favors the Low-Heels. Just as George I's successor, the Prince of Wales, indicated favor to both parties, the Lilliputian heir to the throne wears one high heel and one low.

Blefuscu is the "other great empire of the universe," says Reldresal, and is preparing an invasion. As Lilliput here stands for England, so Blefuscu stands for France; from 1701 to 1713 these two countries were engaged in the War of the Spanish Succession. Again in a parallel to Europe, the war between Lilliput and Blefuscu began because of religious differences, represented by the manner in which eggs are broken before being eaten. It used to be that everyone broke the larger end of the egg.

One day, however, when the emperor was a child, he cut his finger on the shell. His father immediately issued an edict that all subjects would from then on break the smaller end of their eggs, or suffer severe penalties. There were rebellions throughout the kingdom so intense that one emperor lost his life, another his crown. The fire was stoked from agents provocateurs from Blefuscu. When the rebellions finally came to an end, many Big-Endians went into exile in Blefuscu. To this day in Lilliput the books of the Big-Endians are outlawed and no member of this sect is permitted to have a government job. Lilliputians are bitter that Blefuscudians consider them to have started a religious schism.

NOTE:

The Big-Endians represent the Roman Catholics, the Little-Endians, Protestants. The Emperor's edict corresponds to Henry VIII's edict denying the authority of the pope. The Lilliputian emperor who lost his life in the rebellions corresponds to Charles I, who was executed; the Lilliputian emperor who lost his crown corresponds to James II, who went into forced exile, after which Catholics living in England were put under severe restrictions.


The differences between Big-Endians and Little-Endians seem so petty, yet the consequences of these differences are the horrors of war and civil strife. Surely Swift wants us to see the differences between Catholics and Protestants in this light. Remember, Swift was a high-ranking Protestant cleric who wanted the Church of England to have a strong footing even in Ireland (predominantly Catholic). One might expect him to side with the Little-Endians. In his fiercely satiric way Swift is putting humanitarian concerns over sectarian concerns. Religious differences, he seems to be saying, are finally small, and not worth going to war over.

Gulliver here is blind to Swift's wisdom (a good argument if you hold that Gulliver is not Swift). He tells Reldresal that though it would be inappropriate for him, as a foreigner, to meddle in domestic politics, he promises "with the hazard of my life, to defend [the emperor's] person and state against all invaders." Can it be that Gulliver really identifies with the Little-Endians? Or is it that Gulliver wishes to prove that he's not the monster the Lilliputians consider him to be.

In the course of his political lecture, Reldresal tells Gulliver, "...as to what we have heard you affirm, that there are other kingdoms and states in the world inhabited by human creatures as large as yourself, our philosophers are in much doubt, and would rather conjecture that you dropped from the moon, or one of the stars; because it is certain, that a hundred mortals of your bulk would, in a short time, destroy all the fruits and cattle of his majesty's dominions."

Perhaps Gulliver just wants to express his gratitude for the Lilliputians electing to feed, clothe, and shelter him. How backward, it seems, that in order to do so he must promise to fight in a war. And for whom? For the Lilliputians, who are beginning to seem as mentally small as they are physically diminutive. Gulliver doesn't see this yet, but he'll begin to toward the end of the next chapter.

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