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by Jonathan Swift
Lemuel Gulliver Timeline and Summary
Lemuel Gulliver gets married and then promptly leaves his wife for the South Seas. He is shipwrecked off the shore of Lilliput, where he is taken captive as he sleeps. Gulliver's captors are a nation of six inch-tall people. Gulliver slowly becomes friends with the Emperor of the Lilliputians. This Emperor requests Gulliver's help in his war against the neighboring (and identically tiny) island Blefuscu. Gulliver steals all of Blefuscu's war ships, bringing peace between the two nations. But because Gulliver refuses to follow the Emperor of Lilliput's orders to enslave the Blefuscudians, he is eventually forced to leave Lilliput. Gulliver flees to Blefuscu. There, Gulliver builds a boat that takes him to Australia, where he catches a ship home to England. Gulliver stays in England for about two seconds before heading out again. This time, he is shipwrecked on the island of Brobdingnag, the land of the giants. Gulliver becomes a kind of freak show attraction. He becomes so famous that the Queen of Brobdingnag buys him as a pet and hires a little girl, Glumdalclitch, to care for him and teach him their language. Gulliver enjoys being taken care of by Glumdalclitch, but he does not like being in constant danger. Because Gulliver is so tiny, anything could kill him: puppies, monkeys, eagles, anything. Gulliver's vulnerability makes him ridiculous to the King of Brobdingnag. The King asks Gulliver to describe England, which Gulliver does. The King of Brobdingnag replies that England seems like a cesspool of vice and corruption, which Gulliver can't deny. Through a complicated accident involving a bird and Gulliver's traveling box, he eventually escapes Brobdingnag. He's picked up by a passing ship bound for England. Again, after a short stay at home, Gulliver heads out to sea. This time, he is marooned by pirates on an empty island. As he wonders what to do, he notices an island floating overhead. Gulliver signals for help, and the floating islanders bring him aboard. The island is called Laputa, and it is home to abstract mathematicians with no practical skills. Bored with these ivory tower types, Gulliver goes down to the continent below, Balnibarbi. There, he visits the Royal Academy of Lagado. He meets lots of scientists with big ideals and absolutely no know-how. Getting fed up with all of this abstract thought to no purpose, Gulliver starts traveling towards Japan, where he can catch a boat home. On the way, he stops at Glubbdubdrib to visit with the great ghosts of history. He also goes to Luggnagg, where he meets the strulbrugs, a race of people who age eternally. Not a pretty sight. Finally, Gulliver makes it to Japan, where he poses as a Dutch sailor so that he can hitch a ride with a Dutch merchant ship back to Europe. Gulliver spends about two months in England before going back to his travels. After a mutiny on board his ship, he is marooned on an island populated with two races. There are the hideous, beastly Yahoos (who are people). And the beautiful, rational Houyhnhnms (who are horses). The Houyhnhnms keep the Yahoos chained in stables to act as beasts of burden. Houyhnhnm Land Yahoos are violent, cowardly, and can't speak. Gulliver realizes that he, too, is a Yahoo. He is filled with self-disgust, and starts attempting to follow the teachings of his friend and protector, the Master Horse. Gulliver decides that he never wants to leave Houyhnhnm Land and return to England. But the Houyhnhnms decide that he can't stay: he's too smart a Yahoo to be safe. They worry that he will make the other Yahoos rebel against the Houyhnhnms. So, Gulliver is banished from Houyhnhnm Land. Eventually, he makes his way reluctantly back to Europe. When Gulliver gets home, he still so disgusted by other people that he can't stand to be in the same room with his wife and children for a long time. Even five years after leaving Houyhnhnm Land, he can only just tolerate having dinner in the same room with his wife, if she sits far away from him.