Study Guide

Gulliver's Travels Part 1, Chapter 2

By Jonathan Swift

Advertisement - Guide continues below

Part 1, Chapter 2

"The Emperor of Lilliput, attended by several of the nobility, comes to see the author in his confinement. The Emperor's person and habit described. Learned men appointed to teach the author their language. He gains favour by his mild disposition. His pockets are searched, and his sword and pistols taken from him."

  • When Gulliver stands up the next morning, he sees a beautiful landscape laid out in front of him, like a garden. None of the trees are taller than seven feet high, and all of the fields look like beds of flowers.
  • Gulliver's panicking a bit because it's now been about two days since he last peed. Finally, he decides to sneak back into his temple and go in a corner.
  • Gulliver assures us that this is the only time he does something as unsanitary as peeing in his own house.
  • For the rest of his stay in this country, every morning two tiny people come with wheelbarrows for him to relieve himself in, and then they take it away – not a job we envy.
  • Anyway, after relieving himself in the corner of the temple, Gulliver heads outside again. The Emperor comes to visit him and orders him to be given food and water.
  • Gulliver then describes the Emperor: he's a tiny bit taller than anyone else around him, with a strong, masculine face. He's around 28 and therefore "past his prime" (1.2.3), but he has been Emperor for seven years and has done a reasonably good job of it.
  • The Emperor wears simple clothing, but he also carries a gold, jewel-encrusted helmet and sword.
  • The Emperor and Gulliver try to speak to each other for a couple of hours, but even though Gulliver speaks a bit of German (what he called "High Dutch"), Dutch (or "Low Dutch"), Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, and Lingua Franca, they still can't talk to each other.
  • The Emperor and his Court clear out.
  • Gulliver has to deal with a huge crowd that has gathered around him in curiosity.
  • Six members of the crowd get rowdy and shoot at him with their arrows.
  • His guard catches the wrongdoers, ties them up, and gives them to Gulliver for punishment.
  • He puts five of them in his pocket and the sixth, he pretends that he is going to eat. But then he just takes out his pocketknife, cuts the guy's ropes, sets him on the ground, and lets him go. Gulliver's mercy makes him really popular with the little folk.
  • Gulliver spends about two weeks sleeping on the floor of his temple while the Emperor orders a bed to be made for him.
  • As the news spreads that Gulliver has arrived in the capital city, lots of curious people pour into the city to see him.
  • The Emperor is concerned that all of this curiosity is going to lead people to neglect their homes and businesses. He orders that anyone who has seen Gulliver once has to go home, and that no one is allowed to come within fifty yards of his house without a license. This turns into a great money-making industry for the court.
  • Throughout this time, the Emperor is discussing what to do with Gulliver over the long term. A highly-ranked friend of Gulliver's who is in on the discussion tells Gulliver that:
    1. The Emperor is worried that Gulliver's eating habits will send the country into famine.
    2. They think of starving him or shooting him in the face and neck with poisoned arrows to kill him off. But then they would have to deal with his giant rotting corpse, which might bring a plague to the capital city.
    3. Everyone is so impressed with Gulliver's treatment of the six people who shot him with arrows that the Imperial Commission sends out an order to all the country's villages that they must send a certain amount of food and drink to the city for Gulliver every day.
    4. The Emperor orders six hundred people to wait on Gulliver, 300 tailors to make him a suit, and 6 scholars to teach Gulliver their language.
    5. After three weeks, Gulliver's got a good grasp of their speech, so he chats with the Emperor. He asks him regularly for his own freedom, but the Emperor always says: "Lumos Kelmin pesso desmar lon Emposo" – "Swear a peace with him and his kingdom" (1.2.6).
    6. The Emperor requests Gulliver's permission to have him searched, and Gulliver agrees.
    7. Gulliver helps the Emperor's guards into all of his pockets except one secret one, where he keeps some objects that, he says, should only matter to him. Gulliver also won't let them look at his two fobs (read: small vest pockets usually used for holding a watch), which contain a silver watch and a small amount of gold.
    8. The two guards then give Gulliver a careful inventory of what they have found on him, which they give to the Emperor.
  • And we have reached the end of another super-long paragraph!
  • Gulliver transcribes the guards' inventory into English.
  • Apparently, they call him "the Great Man Mountain" (1.2.7).
  • They describe all of these relatively common objects (at least, common in the eighteenth century) – a handkerchief, snuff (a kind of powdered tobacco for sniffing), comb, razor, knife, journal, and pocket watch – from the perspective of people utterly unfamiliar with what they are looking at. For example, a comb is described as "a sort of engine, from the back of which were extended twenty long poles" (1.2.7).
  • It also turns out that, even though Gulliver does not offer to put them in his watch pocket, they notice his watch chain coming out of said pocket, so he has to show them the contents anyway.
  • After searching Gulliver's pockets, the two guards see that Gulliver is wearing a leather belt around his waist. Attached to this belt is a large sword and a pouch for carrying gunpowder and shells.
  • The Emperor hears this inventory of Gulliver's possessions and then orders Gulliver to show his sword and pocket pistols.
  • The Emperor also signals three thousand of his troops to stay on hand during this display of Gulliver's weapons just in case.
  • So, when Gulliver takes his scimitar (a kind of curved sword) out of its scabbard (a sheath for a sword), all of the Emperor's troops shout because they think Gulliver's about to assassinate their Emperor.
  • But he doesn't, of course: Gulliver puts the scimitar back in its scabbard and places it on the ground.
  • Gulliver also loads his pistols and shoots into the air to demonstrate how a gun works to the Emperor.
  • The tiny people are so shocked by the sound that hundreds of them fall to the ground; even the Emperor takes some time to collect himself.
  • Gulliver then places his pistols and his firearms on the ground next to his sword.
  • Gulliver gives his watch, money, knife, razor, comb, snuffbox, handkerchief, and journal to the Emperor to examine – but these things, he gets back. The scimitar, pistols, and ammunition, on the other hand, get carted off to the Emperor's storehouses.
  • Inside the super-secret pocket that Gulliver does not reveal to the Emperor, he has: his glasses, a "pocket perspective" (1.2.11) (probably a magnifying glass or telescope), and "several other little conveniences" (1.2.11) he won't describe. These are all delicate objects that Gulliver is worried might get lost or broken if he shows them to anyone.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...