Study Guide

Gulliver's Travels Part 3, Chapter 8

By Jonathan Swift

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Part 3, Chapter 8

"A further account of Glubbdubdrib. Ancient and modern history corrected"

  • Gulliver sets aside a day to talk to learned men. He gets to meet Homer and Aristotle, both of whom are really smart and neither of whom know any of the guys who have commented on their works.
  • (By the way, for more on who all of these people are, please see our "Character Analysis" of the Ancients.)
  • Gulliver also talks to a number of thinkers dealing with the nature of the universe, including René Descartes and Pierre Gassendi.
  • These men all agree that each new age of humanity comes up with a new system to explain nature, but they never last long.
  • Gulliver also meets most of the Emperors of Rome.
  • Then he moves on to the more recently deceased.
  • This gets a little depressing: he asks to see the family lines of the royal houses of Europe, and finds a lot of commoners mixed in there: a barber, an abbot, two fiddlers – those queens have been getting busy, Swift is saying.
  • He makes similar discoveries with the lines of the aristocracy, in which he sees plenty of evidence of family degeneration into stupidity and lying.
  • Speaking to the ghosts of the recent past shows Gulliver exactly how much lying goes around today, and how much history has been airbrushed to look better (or worse) than it really is.
  • Gulliver wants to find out how people have gotten their official and court positions and finds that it's through horrible means: bribery, lying, sucking up, oppression, prostitution of wives and daughters, treason, poisoning, and incest all come up.
  • Gulliver discovers that the only really great services done to the state have been by people who history calls traitors and criminals.
  • In fact, he also realizes that this kind of hypocrisy was present even in Rome, once the Empire started to grow rich and luxurious.
  • The introduction of similar wealth to England has made English people progressively, visibly less healthy, complains Gulliver.
  • Total corruption has caused England to grow repulsive over the previous 100 years.

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