Are You Ready to Talk About That One Time Gulliver Slept With Several Underage Giants? Great! Me Neither, but Here We Go!

In Part 2, “A Voyage to Brobdingnag”, our protagonist Gulliver delivers to his audience several explicit encounters with the maids of honor at the Brobdingnag court who attempt—and thoroughly fail—to seduce him. He states his disgust plainly here: “The maids of honor often invited Glumdalclitch to their apartments, and desired she bring me along with her, on purpose to have the pleasure of seeing and touching me. They would often strip me naked from top to toe, and lay me at full length in their bosoms; wherewith I was very much disgusted; because, to say the truth, a very offensive smell came from their skins” (127). The crux of the situation is simply this: Gulliver is naked, the maids are also naked, and Gulliver is grossly displeased at the sight and smell of them. Though he finds it unpleasant how inconsequential his presence is made to be for them, he never explicitly turns away their company. To further this, Gulliver also never outwardly confesses to having coitus with them either, very similar to the way that Mary Rowlandson fails to mention if she partook in smoking tobacco with King Philip in her captivity narrative.

Allow me to take a moment in this blog post (informal as it may be) to introduce a precursor which might add some context to the aforementioned events: at this point in the narrative, Gulliver is able to articulate himself clearly with the folk of Brobdingnag, who express a deal of concern towards his health and well-being. His wishes are often respected and understood: the dwarf who antagonized him is whipped and the girl who nurses him is allowed to continue caring for him in the royal court. This is to say that, were he entirely opposed or unwanting of the aforementioned scenes, an explicit ‘no’ or a sign negating consent would have terminated them immediately. This is a right Gulliver eventually uses, as he later requests not to visit a particular maiden who disgusted him more than the others (128). For all his objection to their physique and odor, these were not actions which occurred against his will (although his general state of captivity certainly did).

The events which took place between Gulliver and the maids of honor paralleled the mention of Mary Rowlandson’s meeting with King Philip, wherein she was offered the opportunity to smoke with him. Though she conveys her opposed inclination towards the act (just as Gulliver expresses his dislike of the Brobdingnag maids) the redaction of her choice from the narrative suggests that she may have done so, which speaks volumes about her true relationship with her captors and their culture. In this way, Swift is satirizing Gulliver’s relationship with the citizens of Brobdingnag through his interactions with each of these maids of honor, suggesting that his disgust for their appearances would not deter him from being able to form strong bonds with them, just as Mary Rowlandson manages to form a relationship with King Philip. His real relationship with the Brobdingnag people, in the state of his capture, is then deterred by the narrative in question.

-Savie Luce

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