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Study Questions for Swift's Gulliver's Travels

Vocabulary: yahoo, satire, travel narrative, Enlightenment


Lecture or Handouts:

Identify the following characters:

Lemuel Gulliver, Lilliputians, Houyhmhns

Identify the following places:

Lilliput, Blefuscu, Brobdingnag, Laputa, Balnibarbi, Glubbdubdrib

Reading Questions:

  • Summary of Part I:
  • What is Lemuel Gulliver's job on the ship?
  • When Gulliver arrives in Lilliput, what is unusual physically about the Lilliputian people in contrast with the people of Europe?
  • With what neighboring country are the Lilliputians at war?
  • What threat does the King of Lilliput make against Gulliver if Gulliver will not help the Lilliputians enslave the enemy country? (I.e., how will the Lilliputian injure Gulliver if he doesn't cooperate?)
  • Summary of Part II:
  • What is unusual about the inhabitants of Brobdingnag when we contrast them physically with the people of Europe?
  • How tall is the farm-laborer in Brobdingnag who finds Gulliver in the wheat field?
  • To what family member does the farmer entrust Gulliver as a "pet"?
  • How does the farmer make money from his "pet," Gulliver?
  • After Gulliver's health takes a turn for the worst, to whom does he sell Gulliver?
  • What is the King of Brobdingnag's conclusion about the nature of Gulliver's race when Gulliver explains the policies of his human civilization?
  • Summary of Part III:
  • What unusual trait does the island of Laputa possess?
  • What is the primary interest of the Laputan people?
  • What military advantage do the Laputans gain by the nature of their island that allows them to terrorize other nations?
  • The Grand Academy of Lagado parodies what famous British scientific institution?
  • Glubbdubdrib is a land inhabited by people with what unusual occupation?
  • Part IV:
  • Chapter I: In Gulliver's fourth voyage, what is the name of the ship he captains?
  • What do James Welch's buccaneers/mutineers do with Gulliver after taking over the ship on May 9th, 1711?
  • How does Gulliver end up being left marooned?
  • What Bristol captain takes Lemuel Gulliver out on the fateful voyage from Portsmouth?
    Several men on the ship die of calentures. What are calentures?
  • What horrible discovery does Lemuel Gulliver make about the men he hires in the Barbadoes islands? (I.e., what do these new recruits end up doing on the voyage?)
  • Strange half-shaggy, half-hairless creatures assault Gulliver on the island. What do we later learn is the name of these creatures?
  • When Gulliver first encounters the Yahoos, they surround him and fling what material at him from above in the tree branches?
  • What type of animal frightens away the horrible creatures that attack Lemuel in the fields?
  • Gulliver comes up with two incorrect theories about the inhabitants of the island after encountering his first Houhyhmhn. What is his first theory regarding the mental traits of the human-masters on the island if the horse is so special? What is his second theory regarding the "magical" nature of the horses?
  • While the "horses" examine Gulliver, what causes him to "roar" as he puts it?
  • What is a yahoo? What is ironic about Gulliver's sense of revulsion about seeing these Yahoos?
  • Chapter II:
  • When the horses take Gulliver out to the yard, he finds three yahoos tied to a beam where they are eating animal corpses. When Gulliver looks at the beasts more closely, he discerns the true identify of these creatures by looking at their faces, hands, and feet. What does he realize these animals are?
  • Why does Gulliver think he is going to starve after the Houynyhyms take him into their custody?
  • What do the Houyhnhnm eat at dinner?
  • What is a Houyhnhnm?
  • Chapter III:
  • What two human languages does Gulliver think closest to the Houynhm language?
    In the Houynyhm language, what does the word Houynhnhm mean?
    The Houynhhm are incapable of expressing several human ideas in their language. List any one of these.
  • When three months have passed, and Gulliver can speak with the Houyhnhm, he learns much in conversation. How does the Master Houyhnhm respond when Gulliver tries to explain he comes from another country and that he sailed to the island in a boat built by humans?
  • What is the etymological root of Houyhnhm or horse in the Houyhnhm language?
  • Why is Gulliver unwilling to take off his clothes in front of the Houyhnhm? How does the Master Houyhnhm respond to Gulliver's claim that Nature forbids him to be naked?
  • Chapter IV:
  • What does "saying the thing that was not" indicate in Houyhnhm language? Why does this make the Houyhnhm so confused and uneasy?
  • When Gulliver attempts to explain the condition of his crew to the Houyhnhm, he keeps hitting holes in his vocabulary. What are some concepts he has that have no equivalent in the Houyhnhm language? List three.
  • Chapter V:
  • When Gulliver explains to his master the causes of war, Swift has him list dozens. List any one example of these possible causes. What is Swift's point about these specific motivations for going to war?
  • Why does Gulliver's master think that humans should be incapable of actually injuring each other in a war? How does Gulliver convince him otherwise?
  • When Gulliver tries to impress his master by emphasizing the valor of the English in blowing up their enemies, what does the master order him to do?
  • How does Gulliver explain what a lawyer does to the Master?
  • Why does Gulliver say that lawyers seeking to argue a just cause are at a disadvantage?
  • Chapter VI:
  • Why does the Master find it hard to understand human illness?
  • Explain Swift's joke about medical prognostics--i.e., why are doctors so good at predicting deadly maladies?
  • What three methods do governmental ministers use to rise to power, according to Lemuel Gulliver?
  • What are the common traits of the nobility, according to Lemuel Gulliver?
  • According to Gulliver, what do people commonly believe about any aristocrat who is healthy and strong in appearance?
  • Chapter VII:
  • What does Gulliver ultimately come to believe about the relative virtues of humans and Houhyhmhms?
  • According to Gulliver's master, what species do the Yahoos hate above any other species?
  • The hnea-yahoo, or "Yahoo's Evil," has an unusual cure. What cure does Lemuel recommend for this? Who else does he recommend this cure to besides the Yahoos?
  • At the end of Chapter VII, Gulliver's master describes what he has noted about Yahoo mating customs. How are these Yahoo mating customs similar to European/human ones?
  • Chapter VIII:
  • What does the stink of a Yahoo resemble?
  • When Gulliver holds a Yahoo cub in his hands, what does the cub do to his clothing?
  • What happens to Gulliver shortly after this incident when he strips himself to bathe in a stream?
  • How do the Houyhmhns treat strangers as opposed to the way they treat friends? (trick question)
  • How do the Houyhmhns choose mating partners? What criteria do they use to make these decisions?
  • What four primary lessons are the focus of education for the Houyhmhn young?
  • In athletic contests, what is the award given to a victorious young Houyhmhn?
  • What happens in Houyhmhn society every fourth year at the vernal equinox?
  • What is the purpose of this maneuvering of goods?
  • Chapter IX: What issue do the Houyhmhn debate in the grand assembly?
  • What are the Houyhmhns customs for funerals in the ten days before an elderly Houyhmhn is about to die?
  • Chapter X: How does Gulliver modify his walking gait after spending some time with the Houynhmhns.
    Why does Gulliver determine to flee the island in a boat?
    What sort of animal skin does Gulliver use to fashion his boat?
  • Chapter XI: After Gulliver sails away from the island of the Houyhmnhns, he encounters other humans around 45 degrees latitude. How does these people greet or react to Gulliver?
  • Why does Pedro de Mendez have Gulliver chained in his cabin?
    When Gulliver is reunited to his wife and she kisses him, what does Gulliver do for "almost an hour?"
  • Chapter XII: Why does Gulliver think it would be a bad idea to attack the Lilliputians? The Brobdingnagians? the Flying Island?
  • Where does Gulliver allow his wife to sit when he starts dining with her again?
  • What is the one fault in humanity that Gulliver cannot be patient with--even though he is not provoked by pickpockets, fools, gamesters, whoremongers, lawyers, colonels, and physicians?
  • Finis: In his letter to cousin Sympson, Gulliver lists several alterations the printer has made to Gulliver's book. Name one that Gulliver complains about.



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