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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES

PART II

The tables are turned on Gulliver when he reaches Brobdingnag. Here the natives are giants, and Gulliver begins to think of himself as Lilliputian. Throughout the book he is constantly afraid of being injured, and indeed he is often hurt; his feelings of insecurity give rise to other feelings we have not seen in Gulliver before, notably disgust, violence, and shame.

CHAPTER I

Gulliver's ship gets blown off course by a huge storm. You may notice that Gulliver's description of this is almost impossible to follow. Swift is satirizing specialist language, nautical jargon in particular. After all the East North Easts and South South Wests, he seems to be saying, you lose all sense of direction.

When an island appears, a group of sailors including Gulliver goes off to explore it. Gulliver leaves the group to do some looking around on his own. After a while he sees his mates running for their boat, pursued by a "monster." The sailors make their getaway, but Gulliver is left on this island of monsters.

He is sure he will die here, and for the first time Gulliver yearns mournfully for his family. "I reflected," says Gulliver, "what a mortification it must prove to me to appear as inconsiderable in this nation as one single Lilliputian would be among us." At this point he has enough presence of mind to realize that such prideful thoughts are ridiculous at such a time. For, he reasons, he'll probably end up a "morsel in the mouth of the first among these enormous barbarians...."

A Brobdingnagian reaper approaches and Gulliver screams for all he is worth so he won't be trampled underfoot. The "monster" inspects Gulliver, Gulliver tells us, as though he were "a small dangerous animal" much as he himself has done with a "weasel in England." Gulliver feels sure the reaper will dash him to the ground "as we usually do with any little hateful animal." Later Gulliver likens himself to a "toad," a "spider," a "kitten," and a "puppy-dog." His self-image is really taking a beating. Why? Because he appears small.


The reaper, however, doesn't harm Gulliver, recognizing that the tiny creature can speak and gesticulate, and recognizing too that he is frightened. So maybe the giant is not such a "monster." The reaper brings Gulliver to the farmer, who takes him home. His family places Gulliver on the table where he bows, speaks, gesticulates, offers his entire purse of gold (the farmer doesn't recognize the pieces as coins, so tiny are they), kisses the farmer's hand to thank him for not allowing his son to harm him. Gulliver is "performing" like a minuscule freak in a circus.

After dinner the mother nurses her baby. "I must confess," says Gulliver, "no object ever disgusted me so much as the sight of her monstrous breast...." He goes on to give us an
unsettling description of this six-foot breast. Gulliver reflects on the "fair skins of our English ladies, who appear so beautiful to us, only because they are of our own size." He remembers, too, that the Lilliputians, when they looked at him close up, were disgusted by the coarseness of his skin and features.

Here is another first in Gulliver's narrative. Awakened by rats during a dream of his family, he is so startled, frightened, disoriented (he says the rats are the size of bulldogs), and disgusted, that he kills one of them. You can argue that this is self-defense, but what about Gulliver stabbing the other rat in the back as he is escaping? That is the low-down rage of someone who feels impotent.

NOTE:

In Part I Gulliver felt no shame about his bodily functions, even after he was impeached for urinating in public. Here his language is euphemistic regarding excretion ("I was pressed to more than one thing, which another could not do for me"), and he takes care to hide himself between sorrel leaves so that no one will see him as he "discharged the necessities of nature" (another euphemism). He then apologizes to you for making mention of this at all, and justifies himself by saying that his only interest in writing up his voyages is in "truth." Yet what a defensive apology it is. He addresses you as "gentle reader" but raises the possibility that you have a "grovelling vulgar" mind.

Gulliver-scared, disoriented, disgusted-anticipates criticism and can't keep himself from lashing out.

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