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At the time that Swift wrote Gulliver's Travels, England was the most powerful nation in the world, with a large fleet of ships, which were constantly searching for new lands to control. During these searches the English came into contact with several new civilizations. The Lilliputians seem almost possible in this context. But Swift chooses to set the first culture Gulliver comes into contact with as far too small to be real. He makes the Lilliputians only six inches tall. It is significant that Gulliver, coming from the most powerful nation in the world, is able to be held prisoner by six-inch men. Swift is asking the English to consider the pride of their own country, especially as a colonial power. A great number of small people can overpower one large person-if they are resourceful enough. Are England's colonies powerful and crafty enough to do it?
At the same time, it is apparent that even though Gulliver fears the tiny arrows of the Lilliputians, he could almost certainly escape if he put his mind to it. Why does he choose to stay? Perhaps he is curious about the Lilliputians, their culture, language, and ways of living. Gulliver's curiosity and thirst for knowledge were established in the first few paragraphs of the novel. Or perhaps Gulliver enjoys the power that comes with being a giant. Even as a prisoner in Lilliput, Gulliver is the most powerful being on the island.