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Quotes

Quote #4

The captain was very well satisfied with this plain relation I had given him, and said, "he hoped, when we returned to England, I would oblige the world by putting it on paper, and making it public." My answer was, "that we were overstocked with books of travels: that nothing could now pass which was not extraordinary; wherein I doubted some authors less consulted truth, than their own vanity, or interest, or the diversion of ignorant readers; that my story could contain little beside common events, without those ornamental descriptions of strange plants, trees, birds, and other animals; or of the barbarous customs and idolatry of savage people, with which most writers abound. However, I thanked him for his good opinion, and promised to take the matter into my thoughts." (2.8.12)

When Gulliver sails away from Brobdingnag, the captain suggests that he should write a book about his adventures. Gulliver says, no, no, those books of travels are filled with so much exaggeration that they must be lies. Gulliver doesn't want to include "ornamental descriptions" "of the barbarous customs [...] of savage people." But Gulliver's Travels contains precisely these kinds of descriptions of the customs of people Gulliver meets.

In addition to parodying books of travels, Swift also seems to be poking fun at Gulliver's blindness to any irony in his tales. Gulliver lies to people all the time, but claims to be telling only the truth in his writing. Also, he suggests that he would write "little beside common events," but he also describes the most extraordinary and unlikely meetings with giants, little people, floating islands, and talking horses. Gulliver's language is kind of amazing, because even though he is our narrator, we can still observe little inconsistencies in his self-image that open up Gulliver himself to our criticism and mockery.

Quote #5

And thus, in a few days, by the help of a very faithful memory, I got some insight into their language. The word, which I interpret the flying or floating island, is in the original Laputa, whereof I could never learn the true etymology. Lap, in the old obsolete language, signifies high; and untuh, a governor; from which they say, by corruption, was derived Laputa, from Lapuntuh. But I do not approve of this derivation, which seems to be a little strained. I ventured to offer to the learned among them a conjecture of my own, that Laputa was quasi lap outed; lap, signifying properly, the dancing of the sunbeams in the sea, and outed, a wing; which, however, I shall not obtrude, but submit to the judicious reader. (3.2.6)

Gulliver's analysis of the development of the name "Laputa" provides a parody of writing about etymology, the history of words. He attempts to be so careful, but he misses the most obvious derivation: Laputa from "la puta," meaning "whore." Check out our analysis of why Gulliver does this under the heading, "How Much Swift Is In Gulliver?" in Gulliver's "Character Analysis."

Quote #6

The other project was, a scheme for entirely abolishing all words whatsoever; and this was urged as a great advantage in point of health, as well as brevity. For it is plain, that every word we speak is, in some degree, a diminution of our lungs by corrosion, and, consequently, contributes to the shortening of our lives. An expedient was therefore offered, "that since words are only names for things, it would be more convenient for all men to carry about them such things as were necessary to express a particular business they are to discourse on." (3.5.21)

Those Laputian Projectors – you really have to give them credit for thinking big. Because they have decided that speaking shortens human life by damaging our lungs, they suggest that we should stop talking entirely. Instead, we should always carry the objects we want to talk about so that we can mime what we want to say, using a combination of Show-and-Tell and Charades.

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