Gulliver's Travels: Novel Summary: Part II Chapters IV-VIII
Part II Chapters IV-VIII
Gulliver describes the physical characteristics of the country of Brobdingnag.
Glumdalclitch takes Gulliver with her on trips to town. He sees beggars with serious and visible diseases such as breast cancer, the magnified sight of which horrifies him.
The dwarf continues to bully Gulliver, shaking apples from a tree onto him.
The Queen's Maids of Honor often invite Glumdalclitch and Gulliver to their apartments, where they strip Gulliver naked and lay him against their breasts. Gulliver is disgusted at the smell emanating from their bodies, which is overwhelming. He recalls that in Lilliput, after taking exercise, a Lilliputian had complained that he smelt strongly.
Gulliver is taken to see a public execution, which is a horrific sight, as the arteries spurt blood forty feet into the air.
The Queen has a tiny boat made for Gulliver, and she and her ladies entertain themselves with watching him sail it in a trough.
One day, a monkey seizes Gulliver and carries him up onto a roof. Some men pursue the monkey, who drops Gulliver. The King discusses the episode with Gulliver, who says that if he had thought to make use of his sword, he would have wounded the monkey and frightened him away. The King only laughs at him, and everyone else joins in. Gulliver reflects that it is hopeless to try to preserve one's honor when in the company of those who are not his equals. And yet, he thinks, he has often seen contemptible people in England presume that they are important.
Glumdalclitch takes Gulliver for a walk in the country, and he falls in a pile of cow dung. Though Glumdalclitch loves Gulliver, she makes the most of any story that she thinks might amuse the Queen, and the story is passed around the court, to the amusement of everyone.
Gulliver uses some combings of the Queen's hair to make a pair of miniature chairs as a present for her.
The King, whom Gulliver describes as "a prince of excellent understanding," asks him to describe the government of England in detail, hoping that he might learn of something that can benefit his own country. Gulliver tells him about the two chambers of Parliament, the House of Lords and House of Commons, and about the Courts of Justice. The King asks penetrating questions about these institutions, such as how the nobility who are destined for the House of Lords are educated, and whether new lords are sometimes chosen for dishonorable reasons, such as favoritism, bribes, or for the purpose of strengthening a party opposite to the public interest. He asks whether the lords are so free from avarice that bribes cannot influence them, and whether the bishops chosen to sit in the House of Lords are promoted on account of the holiness of their lives, or because they servilely follow the opinions of some nobleman who employed them before their elevation to the Lords.
The King asks about how members of the House of Commons are elected. He wants to know whether votes can be bought; he asks why people want so much to be members of the Commons when they receive no salary, and wonders if it is because they are ready to sacrifice the public good in return for illicit rewards from a corrupt monarch and ministers.
The King asks about the Courts of Justice. He asks whether lawyers are allowed to plead in causes known to be unjust or oppressive; whether lawyers and judges are well educated in justice or merely in local or national customs; and whether lawyers or judges have any part in writing the laws which they later interpret (thereby opening up a potential conflict of interest).
Next, the King turns his attention to England's management of its treasury. He cannot understand how a government can be so imprudent as to spend more than its income, and why it should engage in such costly and frequent wars. He believes that the English must be unusually quarrelsome, or that they must have unusually bad neighbors. He cannot grasp what business England has sending a military presence to other countries, unless it be to protect trade or to honor a treaty. Regarding England's warring factions in religion and politics, he believes that people should be allowed to hold opinions contrary to the public good in religion and politics, as long as they do not try to spread them.
The King inquires into the nobility's habit of gambling. He is concerned about its negative effects on their minds and finances.
Responding to Gulliver's account of the history of England, the King is horrified by what appears to be a heap of conspiracies, rebellions, and murders, driven by avarice, cruelty, rage, or ambition.
The King ends by saying that it is clear that in English law, legislators can be full of vice, and that there are conflicts of interest that pervert the course of justice. Men are promoted for reasons other than their worth, and priests for reasons other than their holiness. Members of Parliament and advisors are not chosen for their love of their country or their wisdom. He concludes in Chapter VI that Gulliver's fellow men are a wicked and odious race.
Gulliver, a patriot, feels hurt at the King's damning judgment of his "noble and beloved country." To justify himself from possible censure from his readers, he points out that if anything, he exaggerated the positive in his account of England's government, and hid as many of the faults as he could. He hopes that his readers will make allowances for the King, as someone who has lived secluded from the rest of the world, and who is unfamiliar with the customs of other nations. He gives an example of the King's narrow-mindedness. Gulliver once tried to gain the King's favor by offering to teach him the method of making gunpowder, which is unknown in Brobdingnag, after describing its lethal effects in warfare. The King is horrified at such an inhumane idea. Although he is generally delighted by new discoveries, he does not wish to know such a secret, and commands Gulliver never to mention it again.
Gulliver marvels at the King's lack of vision in turning down the opportunity to be master of the lives and fortunes of his people. He gives another example of the King's narrow principles: he cannot understand why the English should have produced so many books about the art of government, when governing was simply about justice and common sense.
Gulliver describes the education of Brobdingnagians as "defective." They excel in morality, poetry, history, and mathematics, though they only apply this last discipline to improving agriculture and the mechanical arts. The number of laws in their country is not allowed to exceed the number of letters in their alphabet, and they are expressed in such clear language that interpretation is not in doubt. They know how to print, but do not have many books. One book suggests that Brobdingnagians were once much larger than they are now.
The King has given orders that any ship like the one in which Gulliver arrived should be sighted near the coast, it should be brought ashore and all the passengers taken to the capital city, Lorbrulgrud. The King wishes to find a mate for Gulliver, so that the couple can propagate the race. But though Gulliver feels he has been treated kindly in Brobdingnag, he is unwilling to create progeny who will be kept in cages like canaries and sold to people as curiosities. He wants to return to his native land.
Gulliver has been in the country for two years when he and Glumdalclitch accompany the Queen on a progress. At the journey's end, Glumdalclitch and Gulliver are ill, and Gulliver persuades her to allow a pageboy to take him to the seaside for some fresh air. At the seashore, the boy leaves Gulliver sleeping in his box and goes off hunting for birds' eggs. Suddenly, a bird picks up Gulliver's box and flies off with it. The bird lets the box drop into the sea. For four hours, Gulliver is adrift in the ocean. Then, he feels the box being pulled along. A voice tells him the box is tied to a ship and that a carpenter will come and cut it open. Gulliver says that someone can simply put his finger into the ring on top of the box and haul it out of the sea. He hears laughter and realizes that he is among people of his own size.
The carpenter arrives and cuts a hole in the box. A weakened Gulliver is brought onto the ship. It takes Gulliver some time to get used to the relatively small size of the people. He tells the captain his story, and shows him some things he has brought with him from Brobdingnag.
Back in England, Gulliver is reunited with his wife, who tells him that he should never go to sea again.
The conversation between Gulliver and the King covers many injustices and corruptions in the English governmental system and the judiciary. Many of these are still current in the early twenty-first century (witness the "cash for honors" scandal of 2006, when England's prime minister Tony Blair stands accused of selling positions in the House of Lords in return for undisclosed loans to the ruling Labour Party). As ever, Gulliver is presented as a na�ve reporter, and if anything, his views are colored by patriotism. The King is partly motivated in his questioning by an earnest desire to learn something that could be implemented in his own country for the benefit of the people. In addition, Gulliver's unopposed view of the King as "a prince of excellent understanding," along with the King's incisive investigation into the government of England, alert the reader to Swift's intention that the King's famous conclusion should be taken seriously. Hence his severe judgment on what he sees as the abuses and corruption of England's government carries great satirical force. He pronounces, "I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth."
Gulliver's indignant response to the King's judgment reinforces the satirical purpose. His insistence that he exaggerated the positive in his account of England's government tells the reader that if he had told the complete truth, the King would have been even harsher in his conclusion. Gulliver is exposed as overly proud of his native country, which makes him dishonest and a hypocrite.
Gulliver's supposed illustration of the King's narrow-mindedness in refusing to learn the destructive secret of gunpowder merely confirms to the reader the justice of the King's opinion of mankind as "pernicious" and "odious." In fact, the King's response is humane and morally responsible, but Gulliver can only see it as weakness. This is an example of dramatic irony, when the reader understands something to which a character (in this case, Gulliver) is blind.
The Brobdingnagians are portrayed as having a more highly developed moral sense than Gulliver and his kind, and than the Lilliputians. Brobdingnagian society is not perfect, and the people do have vices, as, for example, the farmer's greed in exploiting Gulliver for profit. But unlike England, Brobdingnag has not incorporated the vices of individuals into government and law. The nation is fortunate in having a wise king, who has ensured that his wisdom will not pass away with him but is enshrined in laws and customs.
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 I-III
- Part III Chapters IV-XI
- 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