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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES
The experiments described in this chapter are based on actual experiments done or proposed by Swift's contemporaries. Included among them is an experiment designed to extract the sunbeams from cucumbers that have been hermetically sealed. During inclement summers the cucumbers are to be released to provide sunshine. Gulliver also meets an architect who has contrived a plan to build houses starting from the roof. Another man, born blind, is teaching his blind apprentices to mix colors for painters. How do they do it? They "recognize" colors by their feel and smell. Gulliver admits they frequently make mistakes.
These experiments are just plain silly. Certainly, all experiments sponsored by the Royal Society weren't so, but Swift is nonetheless making fun of the Society as a whole.
Gulliver describes the political Projectors as appearing "wholly out of their senses," a perception that makes him "melancholy." This is Swift talking directly to you through Gulliver. He tells of schemes whereby monarchs would choose favorites on the basis of wisdom and merit, and ministers would act always with the public good uppermost in their minds. Swift is indeed discouraged by the politics of his times, for he says that his solutions for improvement are "impossible chimaeras."
Up to now Gulliver's descriptions of Projectors' activities have led us to
believe that these people operate only on theories and never deal in the
literal. When they do, however, the propositions are still absurd. One
Projector has concluded that political bodies and natural bodies are completely
analogous, and that because they are vulnerable to exactly the same maladies,
ministers should be thoroughly examined after senate meetings. They would
then be given proper medication, and this would solve political problems
as well as physical ones. The same Projector proposed that every senator
vote in opposition to his true opinion-that way, the public good would
truly be served. This is Swift expressing his distrust of government officials.
The high point of this section is a Projector's suggestion for solving conflict in the senate. According to his plan, two senators with opposing opinions would be coupled; each would then have his skull sliced and they would exchange brain parts. In this way the two half-brains would debate the matter inside one skull, and this would result in a moderate senate. Surely this is folly if ever folly existed. Swift's purpose here is again to express his perception that things are desperate in English politics and that no one seems to have a reasonable idea as to what to do.
Swift makes an acute judgment on human nature in his passage on taxation. The question under debate in Balnibarbi is whether people should be taxed for virtues or for their vices. "But, as to honour, justice, wisdom, and learning, they should not be taxed at all, because they are qualifications of so singular a kind, that no man will either allow them in his neighbour, or value them in himself." Do you agree with Swift here?
After the Projector has finished his explanation, Gulliver tells him a little about Tribnia and
Langden-these are anagrams for "Britain" and "England." There, he says, the "bulk of the
people consist... wholly of discoverers, witnesses, informers, accusers, prosecutors,
evidences, swearers...." Plots in government, the Projector says, are "usually the
Not a pretty place, as Swift describes England, yet Gulliver says he is anxious to return there. So, as harshly as Swift has criticized his country, it would seem he does so out of concern and love for it, not out of malice. Do you think that Swift, if he unreservedly reviled Britain and honestly felt there was no hope for improvement, would exert himself writing about it, and participating in its politics?