Gulliver's Travels: Novel Summary: Part I Chapters VII-VIII
Part I Chapters VII-VIII
A court official visits Gulliver in secret and warns him that Bolgolam's hostility towards him has increased since Gulliver's success against Blefescu. Bolgolam, Flimnap and several others have conspired to charge Gulliver with crimes punishable by the death penalty. He shows Gulliver a copy of the charges against him. These include charges of high treason for urinating in the palace grounds; acting traitorously by refusing to seize all the Blefescudian ships, reduce that country to a province of the Emperor, and put to death all people who refused to forsake the Big-Endian heresy; and acting traitorously by being friendly to the Blefescudian ambassadors and planning to visit their country even though it has recently been an enemy of Lilliput.
The official tells Gulliver the story of the debate at court about him. The Emperor is inclined to show mercy on account of the services Gulliver had done him, but Bolgolam and Flimnap insist that Gulliver be put to a painful death by setting fire to his house at night. Reldresal, who claims to be Gulliver's friend, counsels the Emperor to combine mercy with justice by merely putting out his eyes. Bolgolam and the rest of the council disapprove of this suggestion, as the life of a traitor should not be preserved. Bolgolam says that Gulliver may well flood the palace by urinating on it again. He suspects that Gulliver is a secret Big-Endian, and wants him put to death. Flimnap agrees, pointing out the expense of keeping Gulliver.
The Emperor is against the death penalty for Gulliver. Reldresal suggests that the problem of the expense of keeping Gulliver can be solved by slowly reducing hs diet and starving him to death. They could then cut the flesh from the body and bury it to prevent plagues, leaving the skeleton as a monument to posterity.
It is decided that the official sentence against Gulliver will be putting out his eyes, and the plan to starve him to death will be secretly implemented. The courtiers expect Gulliver to be grateful for such a lenient sentence, which they intend to carry out by having Gulliver lie on the ground and firing arrows into his eyes. As is the custom after the court decrees any cruel and unjustified execution, the Emperor makes a speech praising his own merciful nature, which is published throughout the kingdom. The people are terrified, as they have noticed that the more lavish these praises, the more inhuman is the punishment, and the more innocent the victim. Gulliver admits that he is a poor judge of such things, but his sentence appears to him rather rigorous. He briefly considers destroying the city, but remembers his oath to the Emperor, and decides he cannot.
Gulliver decides to escape to Blefescu. He sends a message to Reldresal saying that he has gone to Blefescu in line with his promise and the leave granted him by the Emperor. He takes a warship to carry his belongings and, dragging it behind him, wades and swims to the island. He is received with great honor by the Emperor of Blefescu and the courtiers. Gulliver does not mention his disgrace, feeling justified in this omission by the fact that he has no official knowledge of it.
Three days after his arrival in Blefescu, Gulliver finds an upturned boat floating in the sea and drags it into the harbor. He explains to the Emperor of Blefescu that fortune has provided the boat to enable him to travel to some place from which he might return to his native land, and asks for permission to leave, which the Emperor grants.
Gulliver learns later that the Emperor of Lilliput at first is unconcerned over his absence, as he believes that Gulliver has only gone to Blefescu for a short visit in line with his promise. But when time passes and Gulliver does not return, he sends an envoy to Blefescu with a warrant for Gulliver's arrest, conveying to the Emperor of Blefescu that he must tie him up and deport him back to Lilliput, on pain of risking the peace treaty between the nations. The Emperor of Blefescu returns the answer to the Emperor of Lilliput that he cannot do as requested because he owes Gulliver many obligations due to his good service in making the peace. He adds that Gulliver will soon depart, and that both empires will be free from him.
The Emperor of Blefescu offers Gulliver his protection if he would continue in his service. But Gulliver no longer trusts monarchs or ministers, and politely refuses. The Emperor of Blefescu helps Gulliver fit out his boat and gives him livestock to live off on his journey. Gulliver sets sail and soon encounters an English ship. He recognizes an old friend, Peter Williams, among the crew. When Gulliver tells him something about where he has been, Williams does not believe him, until he shows the miniature cows and sheep that he has been carrying in his pocket.
Back in England, Gulliver stays just two months with his wife and family before setting off on another sea voyage, the story of which he will tell in the second part of his Travels.
The satirical focus of this section is the unreliability of the favor of monarchs and their ministers, and their brutality to those whom they deem to be enemies. Though Gulliver has saved the Empress's life, and possibly the entire royal palace and family, by urinating on the fire, she shows no gratitude. Instead, she conspires with Flimnap to have Gulliver sentenced to death for treason. The Emperor and various other courtiers join the conspiracy against him, including Reldresal, who always purported to be Gulliver's friend. Some of Swift's bitterest satire is reserved for this section, in which Reldresal and the Emperor claim to be merciful by suggesting punishments other than death, such as putting out Gulliver's eyes and slowly starving him to death. They even expect Gulliver to be grateful for their leniency. The impression given is that the favor or disfavor of monarchs and governments is arbitrarily earned and lost, without respect to justice or truth. The Emperor (and, by satirical implication, many real-life monarchs) adds to his moral crimes that of hypocrisy: when the court has decreed a particularly unjust execution, he gives speeches praising his own mercy and distributes copies throughout the kingdom. Gulliver the narrator comments, "nor did any thing terrify the people so much as those encomiums on his Majesty's mercy; because it was observed, that the more these praises were enlarged and insisted on, the more inhuman was the punishment, and the sufferer more innocent" (Chapter VII). The episode reveals the Emperor, and rulers like him, to be a brutal tyrant masquerading as a compassionate leader.
The fact that even the na�ve Gulliver eventually realizes that rulers and their governments are not to be trusted, conveyed as it is in extremely understated terms ("although I believed him [the Emperor of Blefescu] sincere, yet I resolved never more to put any confidence in princes or ministers, where I could possibly avoid it" - Chapter VIII), makes the satirical attack stronger. This is because the reader sees the monarch's or minister's betrayal coming before Gulliver catches on, and when it arrives, the reader feels more outrage than the placid Gulliver, as if on his behalf. The righteous anger is therefore taken on by the reader as his or her own, giving it more emotional impact.
Gullivers Travels Study GuideChoose to Continue
- Gulliver's Travels
- Novel Summary
- Part I Chapters I-III
- Part I Chapters IV-VI
- Part I Chapters VII-VIII
- Part II Chapters I-III
- Part II Chapters IV-VIII
- Part III Chapters IV-XI
- Part III Chapters I-III
- Part IV Chapters I-III
- Part IV Chapters IV-VII
- Part IV Chapters VIII-XII
- Character Profiles
- Metaphor Analysis
- Theme Analysis
- Top Ten Quotes
- Jonathan Swift
- Essay Q&A