Study Guide

Gulliver's Travels Part 3, Chapter 5

By Jonathan Swift

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Part 3, Chapter 5

"The author permitted to see the grand academy of Lagado. The academy largely described. The arts wherein the professors employ themselves."

  • Gulliver spends many days at the Royal Academy in Lagado, where there are at least 500 Projectors (impractical students of science) hanging out and thinking.
  • Their projects include:
    1. To take sunbeams out of cucumbers;
    2. To turn human poo back into food (ugh);
    3. To melt ice into gunpowder;
    4. To build houses from the roof down;
    5. To paint without sight, but according to the texture and smell of the colors;
    6. To use pigs to plough fields;
    7. To use spider webs to replace silk threads;
    8. To change the course of the moon and sun so that we can combine weathervanes and sundials.
  • Gulliver gets a bit sick, so he goes to a physician at the academy who is famous for treating gas. This doctor's treatment is really, really surprising: he wants to stick a bellows up the butt of his patient to physically draw wind out of his body.
  • After pumping the wind out, the physician fills his bellows with air from the outside, replaces the bellows in the anus of his patient, and fills the poor guy with air.
  • The idea is that the patient is then supposed to expel both the outside air and the bad air inside of him, thus curing him.
  • But Gulliver sees this doctor testing his bellows on a dog, and what actually happens is that the dog essentially dies of explosive diarrhea.
  • Gulliver's last visit in the experimental part of the Academy is to "the universal artist," a man who is supposed to be working to benefit mankind with lots of projects.
  • Gulliver sees the guy's 50 apprentices working busily.
  • Currently, the artist has two plans: (1) to plant fields with chaff (the shells of plant seeds), because he believes that's what causes seeds to grow (not true!).
  • And (2), he wants to breed a herd of naked sheep. Not exactly helpful.
  • Following this meeting, Gulliver heads over to the part of the Academy that's less practical, and deals with abstract sciences.
  • His first meeting is with a professor who has a giant square strung with wires, on which are written all the words of the Laputian language.
  • This giant square has handles on all sides for the professor's students to use to turn the frame.
  • By turning the frame, the professor's students shake up the words hanging inside the square.
  • Whenever three or four of the words together seem to make sense, the students write down these phrases.
  • Out of this random word frame, the professor hopes to create a complete set of all the world's arts and sciences. Ambitious!
  • Another set of professors is trying to think of how to avoid miscommunication between people. One person suggests cutting all long words down to one syllable and leaving out verbs.
  • Another has an even more amazing idea: stop speaking altogether, and just carry around the objects that will give your listeners an idea of what you mean.
  • (As Gulliver points out, this might mean you'll have to carry around a lot of stuff if your ideas are at all complex.)
  • At the math school at the Academy, Gulliver sees a professor trying to get his students literally to absorb the material he's teaching, by feeding them a cracker with equations written on it. It doesn't work, sadly.

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