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Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels


by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver's Travels Society and Class Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #1

"Golbasto Momarem Evlame Gurdilo Shefin Mully Ully Gue, most mighty Emperor of Lilliput, delight and terror of the universe, whose dominions extend five thousand blustrugs (about twelve miles in circumference) to the extremities of the globe; monarch of all monarchs, taller than the sons of men; whose feet press down to the centre, and whose head strikes against the sun; at whose nod the princes of the earth shake their knees; pleasant as the spring, comfortable as the summer, fruitful as autumn, dreadful as winter: his most sublime majesty proposes to the man-mountain, lately arrived at our celestial dominions, the following articles, which, by a solemn oath, he shall be obliged to perform." (1.3.9)

This is the incredibly long introduction to the document that allows Gulliver his (limited) freedom in Lilliput. There are a couple of things that strike us about this: first off, it shows the restricted perspective of the Lilliputians. They think that twelve miles extends to the ends of the earth? Second, the incredibly exaggerated descriptions of the Emperor of Lilliput (whose head certainly does not hit the sun) indicates the way that written language can be used to flatter and deceive (compare this, with, say, the lack of any written language at all in Houyhnhnm Land). And last but not least, we get a small parody of courtly language; boy, does it take them a long time to get to the point.

Quote #2

Nothing angered and mortified me so much as the queen's dwarf; who being of the lowest stature that was ever in that country (for I verily think he was not full thirty feet high), became so insolent at seeing a creature so much beneath him, that he would always affect to swagger and look big as he passed by me in the queen's antechamber. (2.3.11)

The Brobdingnagian Queen's dwarf, who feels small compared to everyone else he knows, likes to bully Gulliver because Gulliver is even tinier. This is yet another satire of social relations: everyone weak finds someone even weaker than him to pick on, to make him feel big.

Quote #3

This is the court style, and I found it to be more than matter of form: for, upon my admittance two days after my arrival, I was commanded to crawl upon my belly, and lick the floor as I advanced; but, on account of my being a stranger, care was taken to have it made so clean, that the dust was not offensive. However, this was a peculiar grace, not allowed to any but persons of the highest rank, when they desire an admittance. (3.9.4)

Here, Gulliver is describing his experiences meeting the King of Luggnagg for the first time, when he is made to lick the floor in front of the guy's feet. It's amazing what we'll tolerate if it's custom in a place. What do you think of social custom? Where would you draw the line? If you were asked to kneel in front of a king and lick the floor, are there contexts when that would seem appropriate and unobjectionable? Are there compromises you can't imagine making?

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