Report on Gulliver's Travels. Part III:
A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Glubbdubdrib. Luggnagg, and Japan
In October of 1726 Jonathan Swift published his most famous work, Gulliver's Travels. Most readers are familiar with three of the four parts of this work: the land of the little people (Lilliput), the land of the giants (Brobdignag), and the land of the ruling horses (Houyhnhnm-land). However, modem readers may not be as familiar with Part III, which has not received as much critical attention. Some of this neglect is deserved, since this part is less focused and all parts of it are not as good as the other three books. Some of it, however, is quite interesting and deserving of critical attention. In this section, the narrator, Lemuel Gulliver, visits Laputa, the floating island; Balnibarbi, home of the famous academy of Projectors; Glubbdubdrib, the island of magicians; Luggnagg, home of the immortal struldbruggs; and finally Japan, where he finally is able to find a way back home to England. In this paper, I will briefly describe the setting, J summarize the plot, describe the characters, and comment on the satire in each place Gulliver visits in Part III.
As in the other parts of Gulliver's Travels. Gulliver describes in realistic detail how he ends up in a very unrealistic part of the world. The ship Hope-well, on which he holds his usual position of ship's surgeon, is overtaken by pirates, whom Gulliver angers so much that they set him adrift in a canoe to fend for himself. Alone on a land he has managed to reach, he sees an unusual island, which he describes as "floating in the air, inhabited by men, who were able. .. to
raise, or sink, or put it into a progressive motion, as they pleased" (Swift 26). His desperation to survive conquering any fear of this weird-looking island, Gulliver attracts the inhabitants' attention and allows them to take him up to their island.
As literary critic Frank Magill points out, the floating island of Laputa is inhabited by strange-looking intellectuals who "think only in the realm of the abstract and exceedingly impractical" (352). Caught up in thought, they are so absent-minded that they have servants who carry flappers, bladders full of pebbles attached to sticks, to remind the masters to listen and speak during conversations. When the master is supposed to listen, the servant gently touches his ear with the flapper. If he is supposed to talk, the servant touches his mouth. The masters of Laputa study only abstract mathematics and music theory, but any practical application they consider beneath them. Because Gulliver does not need a flapper, he is considered inferior and is placed in the same class as women and servants. As Ernest Tuveson points out in his Introduction to Swift: A Collection of Critical Essays, Swift especially hates theorists who place "abstract principle above commonplace needs" and saves some of his bitterest satire for them (6). Joseph Horrell, in...