Study Guide

Gulliver's Travels Part 3, Chapter 1

By Jonathan Swift

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Part 3, Chapter 1

"The author sets out on his third voyage. Is taken by pirates. The malice of a Dutchman. His arrival at an island. He is received into Laputa."

  • After 10 days back home, Gulliver gets a visit from a former captain of his, William Robinson, who offers him a position on Robinson's ship as a surgeon.
  • Gulliver agrees.
  • After a year of travel, the ship heads to Tonquin, part of modern-day Vietnam.
  • The captain has to stay ashore in Tonquin for several months, but he wants to make some profit.
  • The captain buys a small boat and appoints Gulliver the leader of it, with 14 sailors under him, so that they can continue doing business while the captain hangs out on land.
  • This small boat is captured by two ships of Japanese pirates (who were, incidentally, a serious threat to sailors in the seas around China and Southeast Asia, particularly in the seventeenth century.)
  • The Japanese pirates are accompanied by a Dutchman, who tells the English that he wants them to be tied up and thrown into the sea.
  • Gulliver begs him to let them go, but his requests seem only to make the Dutchman angrier – especially Gulliver's references to the Dutchman as a "brother Christian" (3.1.7).
  • (For an explanation of this oddness, check out "Why Swift Seems to Hate the Dutch So Much," under the "Japan" section of "Character Analysis.")
  • The pirate captains finally decide to split Gulliver's crew between their two ships and to set Gulliver adrift in a small canoe with a little bit of food.
  • Gulliver uses his canoe to row to some tiny local islands nearby, but he can't find much food or shelter on any of them.
  • While he's standing on the fifth and last island, Gulliver sees a shadow blot out the sun.
  • He takes out his telescope, looks up, and sees that it is a floating island covered with people. (This is the island of Laputa.)
  • Gulliver manages to signal to these people that he needs help, and they eventually steer overhead and let down a chain for Gulliver to climb up.

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