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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES
Gulliver literally becomes a freak in this chapter. He is given the baby's cradle-comfortable, but how would you feel sleeping in a cradle?- for a bed. Gulliver is "turned over" to the farmer's daughter, who cares for him in much the same way that she cares for her doll. In fact, her name for Gulliver, Grildrig, means mannikin. Gulliver's name for the girl is Glumdalclitch, which in Brobdingnagian means little nurse. An odd name, since compared to Gulliver she is a giant. But maybe Gulliver isn't feeling at all well.
Much against Glumdalclitch's will, her father has Gulliver give public shows. He is put on a table where he shows off his knowledge of the local language, drinks from a thimble, flourishes his (to them, miniature) sword, vaults with the aid of a piece of straw. In short, he does all the things that people do, except on a toy scale. Gulliver is a great sensation, and the farmer, who's really raking it in, takes Gulliver on the road.
In the England of Swift's time it was common for abnormal people to be put on display. Think of The Elephant Man, for instance. You can't help but empathize with Gulliver here; obviously Swift thinks this sort of human "carnaval act" is shameful.
The road show life is just about killing Gulliver and his Master (Gulliver's name for the farmer, who is, after all, a peasant). How subservient Gulliver has become. Think of the crank who wrote the letter to his publisher.
Gulliver's life is saved when the king and queen of Brobdingnag buy him from the farmer after Gulliver pleads his case in the most humble fashion imaginable. He bows, scrapes, pledges undying loyalty, and embraces the tip of the queen's finger.
The king sends for eminent scholars to examine Gulliver. They conclude that he is in fact a freak of nature. Gulliver finds this "a determination exactly agreeable to the modern philosophy of Europe" where professors have invented the category of "freak" as a cover for their own ignorance when they come on something that stymies them. This is Swift taking a shot at the academics of his day. Freaks are treated more kindly in Brobdingnag than in Europe, though, for Gulliver is outfitted with a luxurious box by the best court artisans to serve as his home.
The king, after talking with Gulliver about European ways, concludes that not only is Gulliver a freak, but he comes from a freakish society as well. Gulliver's stories of Whigs and Tories make the king laugh out loud and exclaim, "how contemptible a thing was human grandeur, which could be mimicked by such diminutive insects" as Gulliver. At first Gulliver is indignant to hear his "noble country, the mistress of arts and arms, the scourge of France, the arbitress of Europe, the seat of virtue, piety, honour and truth, the pride and envy of the world, so contemptuously treated."
This hardly matches the attitudes of the Gulliver who wrote the letter that opens this novel. His overblown language here is an indication of his defensiveness.
Gulliver's ego can't take this for long. He suspects that were he to see his
English compatriots now, he would laugh at them just the way the Brobdingnagians
laugh at him. He can't help but smile when he sees himself so "ridiculous"
in a mirror. "I really began," he says, "to imagine myself
dwindled many degrees below my usual size." His perspective is suffering
in more ways than one.
Adding insult to injury is the queen's dwarf, who lords it over Gulliver for being so small. Again you see Gulliver's outraged disorientation, for he disdains the dwarf for being a mere thirty feet tall. But the dwarf has his ways of getting revenge-he drops Gulliver into a bowl of cream in which he nearly drowns, and squeezes him into the wedge of a marrow bone. It seems Swift is telling us that pride goeth before a fall.
The queen teases Gulliver for being so fearful, and concludes that his compatriots must all be cowardly. Gulliver is terrified and sickened by Brobdingnagian flies and wasps. Where the queen is oblivious to their excrement and other droppings, to Gulliver this falling matter is torrential. In his agitated state of mind Gulliver seems to overstate his case here. Bird droppings are indeed unpleasant, but they aren't as nightmarish as Gulliver would have us believe. He gets two types of revenge against these giant insects: some he cuts into bits as they fly past; others he displays as freaks when he gets back to England.
Shame, disgust, violence, vengefulness-these are Gulliver's reactions when his pride is steadily attacked. How do you think you would react in similar circumstances?
Telling us about his revenge seems to have calmed Gulliver down a bit, for in this chapter his tone is for the most part dispassionate and his observations reliable. He has two notable lapses, however. One is when a crowd of Brobdingnagians crowd up to his carriage to get a glimpse of him. One woman had a cancer in her breast full of holes so large he could have crept inside them. A man, he tells us, had a wen in his neck larger than five woolpacks; another had a wooden leg twenty feet high. Gulliver says he could see lice rooting through their garments "like swine." Again, he is literally sickened with disgust.
Another example in this chapter of Gulliver's disturbed sense of proportions is when seeing the temple, about which he has heard a great deal, he is disappointed as it is merely 3,000 feet high.