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Summary of Gulliver’s Travels Part 1 Chapter 1

Summary of Gulliver’s Travels Part 1 Chapter 1

The narrator gives some account of himself and his family. He recounts how he first began his travels. He is shipwrecked, swims for his life and gets himself safely to the shore of the country of Lilliput. He is made a prisoner and is carried up the country.

The novel begins with Lemuel Gulliver recounting the story of his life, beginning with his family history.

Lemuel Gulliver was born to a family in Nottinghamshire, the third of five sons. Although he studied in Cambridge as a teenager, his family was too poor to keep him there. So, he was sent to London to be an apprentice under a surgeon named James Bates. Gulliver’s father sent him small sums of money now and then, which he used for learning mathematics and navigation, with the hope of travelling. When his apprenticeship with Mr Bates ended, he went to study physics at Leyden for two years and seven months, knowing it would be useful in long voyages.

Soon after he returned from Leyden, Gulliver, on a recommendation from Mr Bates, became a surgeon aboard a ship called ‘The Swallow’, for three years, and travelled to various parts of the world. Later, he settled in London, working as a doctor. He got married to a woman named Mary Burton. His business began to fail when his patron, Mr Bates, died. So he decided to go to sea again and travelled for six years. The last of these voyages did not prove very fortunate and Gulliver grew tired of the sea deciding to settle down with his wife and family. However, his practice did not match his expectations and he decided to accept one last job on a ship called ‘The Antelope’.

In the East Indies, ‘The Antelope’ encountered a violent storm in which twelve crewmen died of excessive hard work and a poor diet; the rest were in a very weak condition. On the 5th of November, which was the beginning of summer in those parts, the seamen spied a rock within half a cable’s length of the ship; but the wind was so strong, that the ship was driven directly upon it, and immediately split. Six of the crew members, including Gulliver, boarded a small rowboat to escape. The seamen rowed till they were able to work no longer, as they were already tired with the labour they had put in while on the ship. They, therefore, trusted themselves to the mercy of the waves. Shortly, the rowboat capsized due to a sudden storm from the north and Gulliver lost track of his companions. They were never seen again. Gulliver, however, swam safely to the shore.

Gulliver walked nearly half a mile inland but could not discover any sign of houses or inhabitants. Tired, he lay down on the grass to rest, and soon fell asleep. When he woke up, he found that his arms, legs, and long hair had been tied to the ground with pieces of thread. He could only look up, and the bright sun hurt his eyes, preventing him from seeing anything. He felt something move across his leg and over his chest. He looked down and saw, to his surprise, a six-inch-fall human, carrying a bow and arrow. At least forty more little people climbed onto his body. He was surprised and shouted loudly, frightening the little people away. They returned, however, and one of the little men who ventured so far as to get a full sight of Gulliver’s face, cried out, ‘Hekinah DeguT in admiration. The others also repeated the same words several times.

Gulliver struggled to get loose and finally succeeded in breaking the strings binding his left arm. He loosened the ropes tying his hair so he could turn to the left. In response, with a shrill cry ‘Tolgo Phonac’ the little people fired a volley of arrows into his hand and violently attacked his body and face. When this shower of arrows was over, Gulliver was left groaning in grief and pain. He once again tried to loosen his bonds and the little men attacked him with arrows and spears. He decided that the safest thing to do was to lie still until nightfall. The noise increased as the little people build a stage next to Gulliver about a foot and a half off the ground. One of them, a person who from his appearance Gulliver decided was a person of quality, climbed onto it and made a speech in a language that Gulliver did not understand. But before he began his oration, the man cried out three times, Langro Dehul San, whereupon about fifty of the inhabitants immediately came and cut the strings that fastened the left side of Gulliver’s head, thus giving him the freedom of turning to the right, and of observing the person who spoke.

Gulliver was starving and he indicated that he was hungry by putting his finger frequently to his mouth, and the little people brought him baskets of meat. He devoured it all and then made another sign, to show that he was thirsty, so they brought him two large barrels of wine. Seeing him eat and drink such large quantities, they shouted for joy, and danced upon his breast, shouting, Hekinah Degul. Gulliver was tempted to pick up forty or fifty of the little people and throw them against the ground, but he decided that he had made them a promise of goodwill and was grateful for their hospitality. He was also struck by their bravery, since they had climbed onto his body despite his great size.

An official climbed onto Gulliver’s body and informed him that he was to be carried to the capital city. Gulliver wanted to walk, but they told him that that would not be permitted. Instead, they brought a frame of wood, raised three inches off the ground and carried by twenty-two wheels. Nine hundred men pulled this cart about half a mile to the city. Gulliver’s left leg was then padlocked to a large temple, giving him only enough freedom to walk around the building in a semicircle and lie down inside the temple.