Study Guide

Gulliver's Travels Part 2, Chapter 6

By Jonathan Swift

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Part 2, Chapter 6

"Several contrivances of the author to please the king and queen. He shows his skill in music. The king inquires into the state of England, which the author relates to him. The king's observations thereon."

  • Once or twice a week, Gulliver attends the King's levee, a kind of reception held every morning when a King gets out of bed.
  • He collects the hairs that drop from the King's twice-weekly shave to make himself a comb.
  • Gulliver also uses some of the Queen's hair from her brush to make a set of chairs (like cane chairs) that the Queen keeps as curiosities.
  • Glumdalclitch plays the spinet, which is like a miniature piano – miniature to Glumdalclitch, but huge to Gulliver.
  • Gulliver knows that the King is fond of music, so he makes himself some clubs to use to shove the keys of the instrument down, but it's such hard work that he can't play properly.
  • The Brobdingnagian King asks Gulliver to give him an exact account of English government, because the King wants to know if there is anything worth imitating there.
  • Gulliver starts off by explaining that his home is an empire uniting England, Ireland, Scotland, and plantations in America under one king.
  • This kingdom is governed by a Parliament made up of two Houses (much as the American Congress includes both the Senate and the House of Representatives). (Check out this link for more on the history of the English Parliament.)
  • The first is the House of Peers, now called the House of Lords, an assembly of members of the landed aristocracy.
  • The second house is the House of Commons, elected freely by the people.
  • Gulliver adds some information about England's law courts, treasury, armed forces, religion, and recent history.
  • After listening to all that Gulliver has to say, the Brobdingnagian King asks him several tough questions, including: how lords are educated to suit them for government? How do lords make laws without taking into account personal interest or greed? How does the government make sure that its elected officials are in it for the good of the state and not for their own glory or profit?
  • The King goes on to ask about the court system: does religion or politics ever factor into legal decisions? How can judges presume to interpret laws that they don't make?
  • As for taxes, the King finds it very strange that a state can run out of money and borrow money like a private person.
  • And how about differences in political and religious feeling – why should these private opinions be a matter of public knowledge or concern at all?
  • Furthermore, what's all this about gambling? Doesn't this give people a method of making (or losing) lots of money with no work of their own?
  • As for Gulliver's accounts of recent English history, it all just sounds like a pile of murders, massacres, and revolutions to the King of Brobdingnag.
  • In fact, even though Gulliver has tried really hard to convince the King of the greatness of his home country, the King concludes that England is governed by a pack of corrupt, unqualified, greedy thieves.
  • The King of Brobdingnag believes that most Englishmen must be "the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth" (2.6.18) – in other words, a disgusting, evil bunch of little creeps.

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