Gullivers Supposed English Superiority Essay

1332 words - 5 pages

Gullivers Supposed English Superiority

Gulliver’s typical Anglocentric Enlightenment views are best exemplified in Chapter 1 of Part IV of Gulliver’s Travels. The long paragraph, in which he describes his encounter with the Yahoos as well as the circumstances leading up to it, illustrates the climax of his Anglocentric views, after which his English pride begins to gradually degenerate and his desire to emulate the Houyhnyms arises. His English pride in this paragraph is demonstrated by his resolution to trade his life with the local “Savages” using “Toys” as his only means, his judgment of the Yahoo’s lack of comprehensive language ability, and his ever-present disgust for bodily functions.

As the passage opens, Gulliver considers his situation and decides “to deliver [himself] to the first Savages [he] should meet; and purchase [his] life from them by some Bracelets, Glass Rings and other Toys, which Sailors usually provide themselves with in those Voyages.” Despite all his previous voyages in which Gulliver encountered people who were not at all savage (and possibly more civilized than him), he automatically assumes again that people in territories outside of Europe will be inherently savage. Not only does he underestimate their level of civilization, but he then proceeds to assume that the Native people will be intellectually inferior when he believes he can buy his life with what he himself refers to as “Toys.” Gulliver’s belief, however, is not completely grounded in arrogance because imperialistic powers did trade cheap jewelry with the Native Americans for furs or even land. Using this logic, Gulliver feels he can extend trading “Toys” for life. He feels that if they are dumb enough to trade furs for glass rings, it is likely that he can guarantee his life in the same manner--that his life can be traded for something so insignificant. Due to his sense of Enlightenment superiority, Gulliver does not even entertain the possibility that his life actually is as insignificant as the "Toys" which he plans on trading for it. Ironically, as his pride degenerates into a hatred for his own race, Gulliver indeed starts to believe in the insignificance of human life.

After Gulliver considers his options, he inspects the island and observes a species of animals whom he likens at different points in the paragraph to goats, squirrels, monsters, cattle and beasts. It is no wonder then, that later when Gulliver reveals that these creatures are human beings, that his reader is surprised. He describes their shapes as “Singular and deformed….their Skins were of a brown Buff colour.” Perhaps one reason Gulliver does not initially see any resemblance between himself and the Yahoos is because they are not white; perhaps his Anglocentric ideal does not permit any color but white to be acknowledged as his equal. What seems certain, however, is the fact that Gulliver feels an immediate antipathy to the Yahoos because they show no...

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