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Gullivers Travels: A Severe Indictment On Human Nature Through Satire

1769 words - 7 pages

An English Literature classic, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726) follows the sub-genre of traveler tales and presents a severe indictment on human nature through satire. Swift uses satire in Part IV – “A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms” to represent the human and animal entities. In the fourth voyage, Swift is indicting the human species but a deeper reading of the text reveals that perhaps Swift is also satirizing the Houyhnhnms and the protagonist traveler, Gulliver. Swift is ridiculing Gulliver and his ideals that make him perceive the Houyhnhnms as a rational and intelligent species as compared to the Yahoos, the humans.
The following discussion examines the representation of the Houyhnhnms and the Yahoos as examples used by Swift to explain the human condition. However, the paper iterates the stand that Swift maintained a conscious distance between him and the protagonist, Gulliver, and therefore, each has a different perception of humanity. The paper also focuses on the use of satire, irony and metaphor as tools to draw comparison between the vices and indifferent attitude of human nature.
It is necessary to understand the dichotomy between the opinions of Gulliver and Swift for a critical reading of fourth voyage. A reader needs to disassociate or alienate the perceptions and opinions of Gulliver’s as his own and not necessarily of the author Swift. By the time Gulliver reaches the end of his journey and before being saved by the captain of the Portuguese ship named Pedro de Mendez, his character undergoes several tones of change and in the end, the readers see him as an obnoxious misanthrope, an object of ridicule. Again, to identify and accept the intelligence of the Houyhnhnms (the horses) and the conceited and deceitful attitude of the Yahoos (the humans) does not necessarily imply Swift’s loss of faith in humanity.
Gulliver comes across as a gullible character that remains blinded to the downside of Houyhnhnms rational philosophy and solely praises the intelligence and humor of the equine species. The part four needs to be understood not only as an interaction between the Houyhnhnms and the Yahoos, implying the nature of relationships between horses and humans, albeit in a humoristic and satirical manner but the voyage needs to be analyzed as a confrontation between Gulliver and Swift.
For a supposedly master race, the Houyhnhnms come across as an arrogant and unenlightened population. They “have not the least idea of books or literature” and neither do they have any knowledge of countries existing beyond them. They do not favour acquiring knowledge that does not have any concrete use and neither do they understand the capability of humans to cause mischief because they lack claws like the Yahoos and sharp teeth to bite each other. Here, Swift tends to over emphasize the rational ability of the Houyhnhnms; they lack emotions and imagination and for an imaginative writer like Swift who is also the creator of...

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