Gulliver by Sylvia Plath | Summary and Analysis

Gulliver by Sylvia Plath | Summary and Analysis

Gulliver by Sylvia Plath

The appropriate title to this poem should be myths of Enormous Bondage, Gulliver is the hero of Gulliver’s Travels by Swift. He has become symbol of bondage in literature. Swift writes about his life and his bondage in Lilliput.

Captain Gulliver is shipwrecked on the coast of Lilliput where the inhabitants are only six inches tall and all their acts and motives are diminutive. Their tiny emperor is regarded as the delight and terror of the universe, the ministers are chosen by gymnastic tasks.

Gulliver slept in Lilliput soundly, but on waking up he found himself a prisoner. He has lying on his back and in this state of Bondage. In the posture Gulliver lay, he could see nothing except the sky. In this poem Sylvia has conceived of human bondage in the modern age.

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Summary of the Poem Gulliver by Sylvia Plath

Stanzas 1 and 2

Here Sylvia Plath addresses a popular character in Gulliver’s travel by Swift. She says that Gulliver was lying on his back and looking at the sky. She says that in Lilliput where Gulliver was lying on his back under the slavery of Lilliput, young clouds pass over him freely.

“The cloud was very high and cold

They are also quite flate

They are floating on invisible glass sheet.”

They have no reflection or shadows swan also flying high in the sky but they have reflections.

Stanzas 3 and 4

They are unlike

Gulliver and not bound any strange.

They are all cool and blue.

They are different quite Gulliver,

Gulliver is on his back his eyes fixed at sky the spider-men (Lilliput youngs)

have arrested Gulliver.

Stanzas 5 and 6

The Lilliput youngs have bound Gulliver with ordinary fetters. As if they have bribed him with so many silk.

Stanzas 7, 8 and 9

The Lilliput youngs hate Gulliver very much. They are inch burns who converse in the valley of Gulliver’s figures.

They would like Gulliver to sleep in their very small rooms.

The toe of Gulliver is the toe of her father they should be cut off and thrown away.

Let the eye of Gulliver be the eye of an eagle which may look from the sky on the empty world.

Analysis of the Poem Gulliver by Sylvia Plath

This poem Gulliver has been composed by Sylvia Plath in order to show the myth of enormous human bondage. The title Gulliver is quite literary. It has been taken after the title of Gulliver’s Travel by Swift in the 18th century the conception of this book a mythical because long tradition has made Gulliver travels a very creditable myth. It is a ferocious satire in which the author satirizes the pettiness, the grossness and the follies of mankind especially of the English people. Swift has poured out his anger and bitterness again base and low human society. On the surface Gulliver has become a mythical term which has interested readers for the last two centuries.

In the very first stanza the poet has addressed Gulliver is lying on his back fettered by Lilliputians. Clouds are passing through the open sky. White elements are face, human beings are in bondage. The clouds are quite free to move in the open sky. White Lilliputians have bound the prisoner Gulliver.


Over your body the clouds go

High, high and icily

And a little flat, as if they

Floated on a glass that was invisible. Unlike swans

Having no reflections.”

The Identity of Gulliver

Captain Lamuel Gulliver, the author of Gulliver’s Travel, a shipwreck on the coast of Lilliput where the inhabitants are only six inches tall and their action and motives are very low. The Emperor of Lilliput is quite terrible. His ministers are chosen by Gymnastic test. The two political parties are known by use of high heels or low heels. The religious fashions are most rational. Swift directly satirizes the people of his own days.

The Freedom of Clouds

All elements, air, water, earth, sky are free, but Gulliver is in the thraldom of the Lilliputians. Gulliver is lying on his back with his eyes at the sky. The following two stanzas express this idea :

“Unlike you,

With no strings attached.

All cool, all blue. Unlike you –

You, there on your back,

Eyes to the sky

The spider men have caught you”,

The Lilliputians have deep hatred for Gulliver. They think him to be an alien in their land. Although Gulliver is a hefty six footed man, yet the Lilliputians, begin in large number overawe him. Such ideas have been expressed in the following two stanzas:

“Winding and twining their petty fetters,

Their bribes-

So many silks.

How they hate you

They converse in the valley of your fingers, they are inchworms.

They would have you sleep in their cabinets,”

The last two stanzas of the poem are autobiographical. In the stanzas there is reference to the toe’ of her father which has to be amputated. The Surftion-

“This toe and that toe, a relic,

Step off! Step off seven leagues, like those distances

That revolve in Crivelli, untouchable.

Let this eye be an eagle.

The shadow of this lip, an abyss.”

Thus the poem provides sharp control between the elements and Gulliver. In Nature there is the sensibility of liberty while human society is in slavery and bondage.

Sylvia Plath’s Criticism of the Slavery of Mankind

In this poem, the imagination of Sylvia Plath rivals high to include the four elements where water, earth and sky. Gulliver is lying low but in the sky where his attention goes, clouds come and go quite freely. Gulliver is in bondage but the sky and clouds are quite free in nature, there is spirit of freedom but mankind is in chain just as Gulliver was in fetters.

Autobiographical Element in Gulliver

Towards the end of the poem Sylvia Plath becomes autobiographical when she refers to the toe, this toe is the toe of her father Otto Plath whose toe was cut off, it has become totally rotten. Plath refers to the eye of Gulliver which may look at the world like an eagle’s eye and finds that world and an empty place and bottomless pit.


Thus the theme of this poem is human bondage and slavery. Through the instrument of swiftness and satire Sylvia Plath laughs at the human slavery.


“Over your body the clouds go
High, high and icily
And a little flat, as if they

Floated on a glass that was invisible
Unlike swans,
Having no reflections;”


This first stanza has been taken from the poem Gulliver composed by Sylvia Plath in Nov. 1962 just five months before she committed suicide. In these lines, Plath addresses Gulliver who is symbol of bondage and complete surrender to Lilliputians the poem shows that man’s fate in this life is controlled by superior elemental power.


Addressing Gulliver Sylvia Plath says that he is lying on his back and looking at the high sky and cold and blue sky are flying. They are floating individuals and casting no reflection. Here the word reflection has two meanings, the first meaning the shadow and the other meaning the peaceful person never cast reflection on other person.

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