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Book 1, Chapters 1-3 Notes from Gulliver's Travels

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Gulliver's Travels Book 1, Chapters 1-3

With all of the chapters in the book, there is a brief summary of the events of the chapter given in italics before the chapter begins. The tale begins, as Lemuel Gulliver discusses his youth and upbringing. The author (Gulliver) recites that he is the third of five sons growing up in a small estate in Nottinghamshire, England. He is sent to Emanuel College in Cambridge at fourteen to study diligently, and is soon taken under the wing of Dr. James Bates to become a surgeon's apprentice. Gulliver studies navigation, mathematics, and physics, developing a keen sense of traveling. After working as a surgeon on several ships (including the Swallow), and also because of his borrowed finances Gulliver marries the wealthy Mrs. Mary Burton. However, soon after the marriage, his good friend, Bates dies, as does most of the British economy, giving Gulliver the idea of returning to work on a ship. He joins the renowned Captain William Prichard on the Antelope and goes to the South Sea on May 4th, 1699.

Topic Tracking: Exploration 1

The initial voyage is a typical one, with Gulliver reading many books and observing the cultures that surround him. However, the ship encounters a violent storm that kills several of the ship's sailors and renders the rest of them ill and invalid. Gulliver is tossed into the water and the ship is wrecked. As soon as he finds himself on the nearby land, he falls quickly asleep after drinking half a pint of Brandy. Hours later, Gulliver awakens tied to the ground on his back, unable to move his hands, legs, or neck.

"I attempted to rise, but was not able to stir: for as I happened to lie on my back, I found my arms and legs were strongly fastened on each side to the ground; and my hair, which was long and thick, tied down I the same manner. I likewise felt several slender ligatures across my body, from my armpits to my thighs. I could only look upwards, the sun began to grow hot, and the light offended mine eyes. I heard a confused noise about me, but in the posture I lay, could see nothing except the sky." Book 1, Chapter 1, pg. 55

The little people, Lilliputians, climb on top of Gulliver, exploring his look, his crevices, and his strength. They continually try to defend themselves against the constrained Gulliver by shooting arrows and cannons into him. They feel like minute needle pricks to Gulliver. After a while, the people bring a small stage around him and begin to speak. They cut some of the strings on Gulliver's face, so that he may turn to the side and observe what is occurring. They continue to chant the same thing over and over in their high pitched voices, and one man even orates a long speech, no doubt about Gulliver, the giant in their presence. Gulliver motions to the others that he is hungry, and they pile upon him, pouring mountains of meat into his mouth. As he insinuates that he is still hungry and even thirstier, the people run around chanting and celebrating in his presence. Although he appears to have eaten a large portion of their food supply - full limbs and groins of unrecognizable animals - Gulliver is not yet satisfied. He says nothing, for he wants to express his gratitude towards their hospitality. "Besides, I now considered myself as bound by the law of hospitality to a people who had treated me with so much expense and magnificence. However, in my thoughts I could not sufficiently wonder at the intrepidity of these diminutive mortals, who durst venture to mount and walk on my body, while one of my hands was at liberty, without trembling at the very sight of so prodigious a creatures as I must appear to them" Book 1, Chapter 1, pg. 59.

A person of high rank in the imperial court visits Gulliver, still tied down to the ground. After a short exchange in signs, they people loosen Gulliver's strings and rub an astringent on his face that allows the arrows to be released and fall off. Gulliver soon drifts off to sleep from the sleeping potion in the wine they gave him. When he awakens, Gulliver witnesses the extreme intelligence of the little people, for they are excellent mathematicians. They have devised intricate wagons and machinery designed to transport Gulliver from the seashore to the interior of the palace, where he lay looking inside and waiting to meet with the emperor. Still in chains, Gulliver observes this small society of Lilliputians surrounding him. It looks like a small theater backdrop and the trees appear to be no taller than seven feet. In his private chamber, his chain only extends so far. Having waited several days to relieve himself, Gulliver stretches the chain as far as possible in order to expunge his excrement, which two servant eventually carry away in wheel barrels. Gulliver makes an overt attempt to illustrate his desire and necessity for cleanliness, despite his status.

Gulliver meets the emperor, who he describes in great detail as a 28 year old man, slightly past his prime, who has been ruling the land for nearly seven years. He speaks to him in a foreign tongue; while Gulliver attempts to communicate in several of the Western European languages he speaks. They still have no luck. After court is adjourned, a guard is placed on watch, while several of the people outside continue to shoot arrows at Gulliver, angering the guard. He commands that these people be forced into Gulliver's hands. He places them in his pocket and jokingly threatens to eat one of the men. However, he soon lets them out one by one, and they run away thankful for their lives. Everyone in the land is slowly coming to respect Gulliver's clemency and kindness.

Topic Tracking: Politics 1

The emperor orders that a bed be made for Gulliver. By mathematical calculations, 600 beds are used, in addition to the relative amount of sheets and pillows of the same calculations. The emperor further orders that 300 tailors make him a new suit, and that teachers instruct Gulliver in learning the language. Additionally, guards are placed outside his 'home,' making his presence felt strongly throughout the kingdom. During one of the emperor's many visits, Gulliver requests his freedom. The emperor denies such a request, replying that his freedom can only come to him with time. Gulliver waits as many of the people hop onto his body, look in his pockets, and take an inventory of all that he is wearing and carrying with him. They describe each item in great detail (which Gulliver translates into English for the reader) and view his possessions, such as a compass and shaving blade, as foreign objects. Although many are later returned to him, Gulliver holds onto his eyeglasses, for they were undetected by the small investigators.

With Gulliver becoming a permanent fixture in Lilliput, he observes several of the games that the Lilliputians play. They involve jumping and guessing and possible injury. The Lilliputians come to the emperor to tell them of something large belonging to the Man-Mountain (for that is what they call Gulliver) found on the beach. It is his hat and he anxiously awaits its return. However, when they bring it to him, they bore holes in it and had dragged it across the countryside by string tied to it through the holes.

The emperor begins to use Gulliver for the kingdom. Gulliver stands erect, with his feet apart, as the army and horses march through his legs. After many such games and practices, again, Gulliver requests his freedom. The emperor decrees the following mandate that allow Gulliver to walk freely in the land.

"First, The Man-Mountain shall not depart from our dominions, without our license under our great seal.
2nd, He shall not presume to come into our metropolis, without our express order; at which time the inhabitants shall have two hours warning to keep within their doors.
3rd, The said Man-Mountain shall confine his walks to our principal high roads, and not offer to walk or lie down in a meadow or field of corn.
4th, As he walks the said roads, he shall take the utmost care not to trample upon the bodies of any of our loving subjects, their horses, or carriages, nor take any of our said subjects into his hands, without their own consent.
5th, If an express require extraordinary dispatch, the Man-Mountain shall be obliged to carry in his pocket the messenger and hors a six days' journey once in every moon, and return the said messenger back (if so required) safe to our Imperial Presence.
6th, He shall be our ally against our enemies in the island of Blefuscu, and do his utmost to destroy their fleet, which is now preparing to invade us.
7th, That the said Man-Mountain shall, at his times of leisure, be aiding and assisting to our workmen, in helping to raise certain great stones, towards covering the wall of the principal park, and other our royal buildings.
8th, That the said Man-Mountain shall, in two moons' time, deliver in an exact survey of the circumference of our dominions by a computation of his own paces round the coast.
Lastly, That upon his solemn oath to observe all the above articles, the said Man-Mountain shall have a daily allowance of meat and drink sufficient for the support of 1728 of our subjects, with free access to our Royal Person, and other marks of our favour."
Book 1, Chapter 3, pp. 79-80

Topic Tracking: Politics 2

Gulliver realizes that the Lilliputians strong intellect calculated the specific amount of people - 1728 - that it would take to feed him.

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