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Summary of Gulliver’s Travels Part 3 A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib and Japan

Summary of Gulliver’s Travels Part 3 A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib and Japan Chapter 1 to 11

Summary of Gulliver’s Travels Part 3 Chapter 1

The narrator sets out on his third voyage and is taken by pirates. The malice of a Dutchman is described. The narrator arrives at an island and is received into Laputa.

Gulliver had been home in England only ten days when he was visited by a former captain of his, William Robinson, who offered him the position of a surgeon on his ship that would sail for the East Indies in two months’ time. Gulliver agreed and convinced his wife that this was a good opportunity and set off to sea again on ‘The Hopewell’. Upon reaching the port of Tonquin, the captain, who had to stay ashore, sent a sloop with a crew of fourteen under Gulliver’s leadership, to trade with some nearby islands.

This small boat was attacked and captured by two pirate ships. The Japanese pirates were accompanied by a Dutchman, who told the English that he wanted them to be tied up and thrown into the sea. Gulliver, who spoke Dutch, begged the pirate to let them go, but his requests and his reference to the Dutchman as a ‘brother Christian’ seemed only to make the Dutchman angrier. A Japanese pirate captain reassured them they would not die and decided to split Gulliver’s crew between their two ships. Gulliver told the Dutchman that he was surprised to find more mercy in a heathen than in a Christian. At his words the Dutchman grew angry and punished Gulliver by setting him adrift in a small canoe with only four days’ worth of food.

Gulliver rowed to some tiny local islands nearby, but he couldn’t find much food or shelter on any of them. While he was standing on the fifth and last island, Gulliver saw a mysterious shadow blot out the sun for some time. He took out his telescope, looked up and saw that it was a floating island covered with people. He was baffled by this floating island and shouted up to its inhabitants. They lowered the island and sent down a chain by which he was drawn up.

Summary of Gulliver’s Travels Part 3 Chapter 2

The humourous dispositions of the Laputans is described. An account of their learning of the king and his court is given. The narrator’s reception there is described. The inhabitants are subject to fear and disquietudes. An account of the women is also given.

Gulliver was immediately surrounded by people and noticed that they were all quite odd. Their heads were all tilted to one side or the other, with one eye turned inward and the other looking up. Their clothes were adorned with images of celestial bodies and musical instruments. Gulliver immediately realized that the inhabitants of Laputa were a race of distracted people, who had a very limited attention span and very narrow interests; that was the reason why the servants carried a ‘flapper’ made of a stick with a pouch tied to the end. Their job was to aid conversation by striking the ear of the listener and the mouth of the speaker at the appropriate times to prevent their masters’ minds from wandering off.

Gulliver was conveyed to the king, who sat behind a table loaded with mathematical instruments. They waited an hour before there was some opportunity to arouse the king from his thoughts, at which point he was struck with the flapper. The king said something and Gulliver’s ear was struck with the flapper as well, even though he tried to explain that he did not require such actions. It became clear that he and the king could not speak any of the same languages, so Gulliver was taken to an apartment and served dinner.

A teacher was sent to instruct Gulliver in the language of the island and he was able to learn several sentences. He discovered that the name of the island is Laputa, which in their language meant ‘floating island.’ A tailor was also sent to provide him with new clothes and while he was waiting for these clothes, the king ordered the island to be moved. It was taken to a point above the capital city of the kingdom, Lagado, passing villages along the way. As they went they collected petitions from the king’s subjects by means of ropes sent down to the lands below.

The language of the Laputans relied heavily on mathematical and musical concepts, as they valued these theoretical disciplines above everything. The Laputans despised practical geometry, thinking it vulgar—so much so that they made sure that there were no right angles in their buildings. They were very good with charts and figures but very clumsy in practical matters. They practiced astrology and dreaded changes in the celestial bodies. They spent their time listening to the music of the spheres. They believed in astrology and worried constantly that the sun would go out. The Laputian houses, he noticed, were badly built, without accurate right angles.

Gulliver discovered that Laputa controlled the continent under it, Balnibarbi and that there were frequent visitors and deliveries from sea level up to Laputa by means of rope. In fact, the king lived in Laputa, but Balnibarbi was the capital city.

What surprised Gulliver was that, even though all the Laputans knew only mathematics and music, they still liked to talk endlessly about politics. He also found it strange that the Laputans lived in such constant fear of the end of the world that they hardly slept at night or enjoyed life. The women of Laputa despised their husbands and loved strangers.

Gulliver became pretty fluent in Laputian after a month. He and the king talked but the king didn’t bother asking him about the countries he had seen; all of his questions revolved around mathematics and science known to Gulliver’s people.

Summary of Gulliver’s Travels Part 3 Chapter 3

A phenomenon is solved by modern philosophy and astronomy. The Laputans’ great improvements in the latter and the king’s method of suppressing insurrections is described.

The flying or floating island was exactly circular, it had a diameter of about four miles and a half and an area of ten thousand acres. It was three hundred yards thick. The bottom, or under surface, was a hard, unbreakable stone plate, about two hundred yards thick. Above it lay several minerals and the top most layer was rich mould. The surface sloped from the sides to the centre and the rain was conveyed in small rivulets into four large basins that collected rain water. The monarch could raise the island above the region of clouds and vapours preventing the falling of dew and rain whenever he pleased.

At the centre of the island was a deep canyon called ‘Flandona Gagnole’, or the astronomer’s cave. This cave contained all their astronomical instruments and a magnet, six yards long, in the middle of it. This magnet attracted at one end, repelled at the other. The island was made to rise and fall and move from one place to another with the help of this magnet. The movement of Laputa had limits: it couldn’t go beyond the king’s own dominions, in other words, the islands that he controlled at sea level. It also couldn’t rise higher than four miles above the earth.

It was the job of the king’s astronomers to do the actual manipulation of the magnet at his orders. They also spent a lot of time discovering things about the solar system and the stars. The only thing that limited the king’s control of the earth below him was that all of his cabinet members had estates on the islands below Laputa, so they found the idea of dominating the islands under them to be pretty risky for their own families.

At the same time, the king still had two methods for keeping his authority over the lower islands without absolutely enslaving them. If any of them refused to pay tribute, he made his island float directly overhead, blocking their sunlight and rain, until they gave in and, if they continued to refuse to obey him, the king could drop his island directly on their heads.

The king rarely ordered this kind of total destruction because his ministers had their homes down below and his own people would revolt against him.

Such measures failed to work in the city of Lindalino, where the rebellious inhabitants had stored provisions of food in advance. They planned to force the island to come so low that it would be trapped forever and to kill the king and his officials in order to take over the government. The King, who was also secretly worried that the power of his magnet might not be strong enough to lift the island again if it came crashing to earth, ordered the island to stop descending and gave in to the town’s demands.

Laputa also had a law that neither the king nor his two eldest sons, nor the queen are allowed to leave the floating island.

Summary of Gulliver’s Travels Part 3 Chapter 4

The narrator leaves Laputa; is conveyed to Balnibarbi and arrives at the metropolis. A description of the metropolis and the adjoining country is given. The narrator is hospitably received by a great lord.

Gulliver felt neglected on Laputa since the inhabitants seemed interested only in mathematics and music and were far superior to him in their knowledge. He was bored by their conversation and wanted to leave. There was one lord of the court whom Gulliver found to be intelligent and curious and who had done many great things for the state, but he got no respect because he had no ear for music and no talent for mathematics. He and Gulliver bonded because they could talk sensibly to each other. Gulliver asked this lord to petition the king to let him leave the island. The king agreed, gave him some money and he was let down on the mountains above Lagado.

He visited another lord, named Munodi and was invited to stay at his home. Gulliver was disappointed at the sight of Lagado. Though the town was about half the size of London, it had houses very strangely built and most of them out of repair. The people in the streets walked fast, looked wild, their eyes fixed and were generally in rags. He expressed his opinion on the poverty of Lagado to Lord Munodi, who suggested that they kept that conversation for a later time, when they were safely at Lord Munodi’s own estates.

They then travelled to Munodi’s country house, passing many barren fields before arriving at Munodi’s estates. Lord Munodi’s estates were beautiful, well-cultivated and seemed prosperous—totally the opposite of the other Balnibarbi lands. He said that the other lords criticised him heavily for the ‘mismanagement’ of his land—he had left his orchards, fields and home in the old model of his forefathers, while the rest of Balnibarbi had gone over to new ideas of farming.

Munodi explained that forty years ago some people had gone to Laputa and returned with new ideas about mathematics and art. They decided to establish an academy in Lagado to develop new theories on agriculture and construction and to initiate projects to improve the lives of the city’s inhabitants. The professors promised all kinds of miracles—auto-ripening fruit, reduction of working hours, etc., but the problem was—all their calculations didn’t actually work. The new techniques left the country in ruin. Lord Munodi promised to get Gulliver an invitation to Lagado’s Royal Academy if he wanted it, which Gulliver did since he was once intrigued by projects of this sort himself.

Summary of Gulliver’s Travels Part 3 Chapter 5

The narrator is permitted to see the grand academy of Lagado. The academy is largely described as an area of the arts wherein the professors employ themselves.

The Royal Academy in Lagado was not an entire single building, but a continuation of several houses on both sides of a street, which were lying vacant and were purchased and applied to that use. Gulliver was received very kindly by the warden and spent many days at the academy, where there were at least 500 Projectors who came up with a variety of visionary, impracticable schemes. Gulliver met a man engaged in a project to extract sunbeams from cucumbers.

He also met a scientist trying to turn excrement back into food. Another was attempting to turn ice into gunpowder and was writing a treatise about the malleability of fire, hoping to have it published. An architect was designing a way to build houses from the roof down and a blind master was teaching his blind apprentices to mix colours for painters according to smell and touch. An agronomist was designing a method of ploughing fields with hogs by first burying food in the ground and then letting the hogs loose to dig it out.

Gulliver complained of colic and his guide led him into a room where a great physician, who was famous for curing that disease, resided. This doctor tried to cure patients by blowing air through them. Gulliver left this doctor trying to revive a dog, that he had killed, by supposedly curing it in this way.

On the other side of the academy there were people engaged in speculative learning. One professor had a class full of boys working from a machine that produced random sets of words. Using this machine, the teacher claimed, anyone could write a book on philosophy or politics. A linguist in another room was attempting to remove all the elements of language except nouns. Such pruning, he claimed, would make language more concise and prolong lives, since every word spoken was detrimental to the human body. Since nouns were only things, furthermore, it would be even easier to carry things and never speak at all. Another professor tried to teach mathematics by having his students eat wafers that had mathematical proofs written on them.

Summary of Gulliver’s Travels Part 3 Chapter 6

A further account of the academy. The narrator proposes some improvements, which are honourably received.

Gulliver then visited professors who were studying issues of government. He sarcastically referred to them as being ‘wholly out of their senses’. They proposed schemes for persuading monarchs to choose favourites based on their wisdom, capacity and virtue; of teaching ministers to consider the public good; of rewarding merit, great abilities, eminent services; of instructing princes to know their true interest, by placing it on the same foundation with that of their people; of choosing for employments, persons qualified to exercise them, with many other ‘wild’, ‘impossible’ schemes.

However, not all of them were so visionary. One of the political projectors suggested that, if a political assembly is like a body, then it stands to reason that cures for the body might also cure problems in the assembly itself. So, he suggested that all senators should receive regular medical treatment to make sure that they didn’t fall into greed, corruption, or bribery. He also suggested various ‘cures’ for the weak memories and poor decision-making of senators. He also opined that, if political parties became violent, a hundred leaders from each political party could be taken and their brains split in such a manner that the brain may be equally divided and the portion cut-off to be interchanged, applying each to the head of his opposite party-man. In this way, each skull would have half a conservative and half a liberal brain in it. Then they could argue it out among themselves.

To raise money, there was a proposal to tax everything bad in a man, as decided by his neighbours. A second fellow suggested that they tax everything good about a man, again, as assessed by his neighbours. The problem was ensuring that jealous neighbours would not unjustly accuse each other. Another claimed that women should be taxed according to their beauty and skill at dressing.

To choose who would serve in high office, a professor proposed a raffle, which would keep hope alive among senators who might otherwise turn against the crown. Another professor advised that one could tell if a man was plotting against the government by measuring and analyzing his excrement. Gulliver offered to tell this professor about a land he had seen, ‘Tribnia’, which its residents called ‘Langden’.

Gulliver informed them that the plots in ‘Tribnia’ were generally hatched by informers who wanted to raise their own reputations by making up stuff. Usually, the accusers decided who to target in advance so they could raid the homes of the accused. There, they stole all the letters belonging to the accused so they could find ‘proof of treason by assigning special meanings and fake codes to the words of the accused. If making false allegations failed, these people had two other methods even more effectual. They could decipher all initial letters into political meanings. Or by transposing the letters of the alphabet in any suspected paper, they could give it any meaning they chose, thereby, they laid open the deepest designs of a discontented party.

Gulliver grew tired of the academy and began to yearn for a return to England.

Summary of Gulliver’s Travels Part 3 Chapter 7

The narrator leaves Lagado: arrives at Maldonado. No ship ready. He takes a short voyage to Glubbdubdrib. His reception by the governor is described.

Gulliver claimed that Balnibarbi was situated in the Pacific, towards the west of California, which had not yet been charted. To the north of Lagado lay the island of Luggnagg, which was not far southeast of Japan. These two countries had trade relations, so Gulliver decided to go to Luggnagg, sail for Japan and then head for Europe. Gulliver tried to travel to Luggnagg, but he found that no ship available. Since he had to wait a month before a boat would arrive at the port city of Maldonada to take him to Luggnagg, he was advised to take a trip to Glubbdubdrib, the island of sorcerers. These sorcerers were very private and only married among each other. The Governor of Glubbdubdrib could raise the dead, but only for one day and he couldn’t call them back again until three months had gone by.

Gulliver visited the governor of Glubbdubdrib, who asked Gulliver about his adventures. He found that servants who attended the governor were spirits who could appear and disappear. After ten days on Glubbdubdrib, Gulliver became so familiar with the sight of ghosts that apprehension was replaced by curiosity. This led the Governor to make him an offer: Gulliver could speak to any ghost he chose and to as many as he wanted to. The one thing he had to promise was that he would only ask them questions about their own time. Gulliver chose Alexander the Great, who told him that he had died, not from poison, but from excessive drinking. He then saw the Carthaginian general Hannibal and the Roman leaders Caesar, Pompey and Brutus. Gulliver didn’t want to bore the reader with a complete list of who he spoke to, but most of his conversations were with great men of history who had killed tyrants and had fought for liberty.

Summary of Gulliver’s Travels Part 3 Chapter 8

A further account of Glubbdubdrib. Ancient and modem history is corrected.

Gulliver set apart one day to speak with the most venerated people in history, starting with Homer and Aristotle. A ghost informed Gulliver that later scholars who commented on their works had horribly misrepresented the meaning of those authors to posterity. Gulliver also talked to a number of thinkers dealing with the nature of the universe, including the French philosophers Rene Descartes and Pierre Gassendi. He asked Descartes and Gassendi to describe their systems to Aristotle, who freely acknowledged his own mistakes while pointing out that systems of nature would always vary from age to age as each new age of humanity comes up with a new system to explain nature.

Gulliver also met most of the Emperors of Rome. Then he moved on to the more recently deceased ones. He saw plenty of evidence of family degeneration into stupidity and lying. Speaking to the ghosts of the recent past showed Gulliver exactly how much lying goes around and how much history had been manipulated to look better (or worse) than it really was. Gulliver wanted to find out how people had gotten their official and court positions and found that it was through horrible means: bribery, lying, flattery, oppression, treason and poisoning. The only really great services done to the state had been by people who history calls traitors and criminals. In fact, he also realized 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 had made the English people progressively less healthy. Total corruption had caused England to grow repulsive over the last 100 years.

Summary of Gulliver’s Travels Part 3 Chapter 9

The narrator returns to Maldonada. He sails to the kingdom of Luggnagg. The narrator is confined. He is sent to the court. The manner of his admittance and the king’s great levity to his subjects are described.

Gulliver finally left Glubbdubdrib and headed for Luggnagg. He arrived in Luggnagg on 21 April 1708. Gulliver started speaking to a customs officer in Luggnagg, where he pretended to be Dutch, since Gulliver’s eventual destination was Japan and the Japanese would only allow Dutch traders access to their harbours. Gulliver was detained in Luggnagg by red tape, so he hired an interpreter who spoke both Luggnagg and Balnibarbi and answered frequent questions about his travels and the countries he had seen.

Eventually, Gulliver was granted audience with the King of Luggnagg and was given lodging and an allowance. He learnt that subjects were expected to lick the floor as they approached the king and that the king sometimes got rid of opponents in the court by coating the floor with poison. Gulliver exchanged ritual greetings with the king and then spoke to him through his interpreter. The king really liked Gulliver: he gave him some money and let him stay at the palace. Gulliver lived in Luggnagg for three months, but decided that, overall, it would be safer to go home to his wife and children.

Summary of Gulliver’s Travels Part 3 Chapter 10

The Luggnaggians are commended. A particular description of the Struldbrugs, with many conversations between the narrator and some eminent persons upon that subject are given here.

Gulliver found Luggnaggians polite and generous; though they were not without pride. He found many acquaintance and the conversations he had with them were not disagreeable.

One day, the Luggnaggians told Gulliver about certain immortal people, children bom with a red spot on their foreheads who were called Struldbrugs. Gulliver was delighted to find a country where every child had a chance of being bom immortal. The person Gulliver was speaking to asked Gulliver what he would do, if he had been bom immortal. Gulliver thought of many things he would do if he were immortal, starting with acquiring riches and in the course of time, becoming the wealthiest man in the kingdom.

He would apply himself to the acquisition of knowledge. He would bring about changes in customs, language, fashions of dress, diet and means of entertainment. He would live generously, yet still on the saving side. He would also take care to instruct young people among the mortals but choose only immortals as his constant companions. He would help those in need. He would see history take shape. He would see great inventions happen. Gulliver counted many such desires. When he finished, the people listening to him laughed. His interpreter then clarified that Struldbrugs were immortal but were not eternally young. They aged at the same rate as other humans, the difference being, that at 80 years old, they were much more miserable than other old people because they had the prospect of living on and on beyond their 80 years.

According to the law of the country, as soon as a Struldbrug turned 80, he was dead in terms of the law, so all of his money went to his heirs—he was totally poor. Struldbrug marriages were also dissolved at 80, since they would make the couple so much more unhappy. At 90, they started losing their teeth, so they didn’t enjoy eating anymore. Their memories got bad and they couldn’t read without forgetting, at the end of a sentence, how it began. Because language evolved with time, older Struldbrugs couldn’t understand younger people at all. They had to beg for money, since otherwise, they had to get by on a tiny state allowance. Gulliver met some Struldbrugs and found them to be unhappy and unpleasant and he regretted ever wishing for their state. At the same time, the Luggnaggian King reminded him that the sight of a Struldbrug cured everyone of the fear of death.

Summary of Gulliver’s Travels Part 3 Chapter 11

The narrator leaves Luggnagg, and sails to Japan. From thence he returns in a Dutch ship to Amsterdam, and from Amsterdam to England.

The Luggnaggian King offered Gulliver a job at court, but Gulliver wanted to go home. The king sent him off with a generous gift of gold. Gulliver headed to Japan, where he used a letter of recommendation from the Luggnaggian King to get an audience with the emperor of Japan.

The two talked to each other using Dutch. Gulliver told the emperor that he was a Dutch merchant looking for passage to Nangasac, home to a large Dutch settlement in the eighteenth century. The emperor agreed. Gulliver’s trip home was uneventful, and he finally got to see his family after five and a half years.