Gulliver’s Travels book
  • It is arguable that in this sense, humans are more highly advanced than their horse like counterparts in Houyhnhnmland due to the fact that they can actually experience the emotions that give life meaning
  • This point is even further emphasized by the fact that they consider genocide as a solution to the Yahoos they dislike so strongly


    • by Valerie
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      Jonathan Swift’s, “Gulliver’s Travels” takes the main character Gulliver on a series of four exhilarating adventures in which he meets a myriad of outlandish creatures and presumptively learns lessons about life and human nature. However, upon the conclusion of his fourth adventure, Gulliver simply withdraws himself from human society in order to live a life of solitude much like that of the Houyhnhnms he idolizes. This leaves the ultimate message of the work as a whole unclear to the reader, requiring one to contemplate what specific message Jonathan swift is attempting to convey about human nature through “Gulliver’s Travels”. The opaqueness in regard to the message of Swift’s conclusion leads to the emanation of a stratification of possible messages, in which evidence exists to support the idea that there is no hope for humans, that humans should reconstruct their entire way of life in order to adopt the ideal ways of the Houyhnhnms he idolizes, and even that humans have already been perfected and Gulliver is in fact the one who is flawed. The fact that Gulliver simply secedes from human society upon the conclusion of the story leads the reader to the most discernable conclusion, that there is plainly no hope for human society and that human nature is so corrupt and malevolent that there is no possibility of reformation. If there were hope for society, Gulliver would not simply withdraw himself from his family, his community and his country. Instead, he would attempt to make a proactive difference by educating his peers, protesting or performing some substantial action to draw attention in order to change the fallacies of humans. Gulliver’s travels have made the prevalence of human corruption and greed in English society evident to him.

      Swift, as a satirist, portrays the fallacies of human nature in order for the reader to recognize them and therefore in writing such a piece, he is making a distinct effort to make a positive change in society. Gulliver on the other hand fails to take such an action, presumably due to the fact that upon his return he states in response to his family’s welcome, “the sight of them filled me only with hatred, disgust, and contempt”. There is great irony in the fact that Gulliver seemingly misses the point of his travels and lacks even the will to make a mere effort to change himself no


      less the society in which he lives. Nonetheless, it does point toward the notion that the concluding message of the story is that human nature is beyond the point of correction. Gulliver’s intentions appear to be distinct from correcting the problems he associates with humans that are also consistent with the Yahoos he affiliates them with. Gulliver takes great pride in the Houyhnhnm race, adopting their ideals and habits as his own. For example, he begins to trot like a Houyhnhnm and feels great glory due to this alteration.

      Upon Gulliver’s return to England, he cannot bear the sight of his wife and children whom he once loved dearly. In fact, when his wife kisses him, “having not been used to the touch of that odious animal for so many years”, he faints due to pure repulsion. He does not allow his family to touch his belongings. He is so disgusted by his own family that he cannot stand to eat at the same table with them. His repugnance with the human race along with his association with the Houyhnhnms coincides with his rejection of human society and leads to the ultimate conclusion that there is no hope for human society. Therefore, there is a substantial amount of evidence that the message of “Gulliver’s Travels” is that the human race is so flawed that it is in fact beyond the point of remedy. An alternative yet equally plausible message is that Swift is attempting to portray Houyhnhnms as the ideal society and asserting that humans should conform to their way of life.

      Houyhnhnms lived very different lives than their English counterparts in a world structured around an entirely different basis. Houyhnhnms live under the government of Reason while the English live according to the outlandish structure of politics. Gulliver’s Master teaches him that “our institutions of government and law were plainly owing to our gross defects in reason, and by consequence, in virtue; because reason alone is sufficient to govern a rational creature”. Here, English society is being attacked on a myriad of levels, not only are the politics and methods by which England governs its people seriously flawed, but the people as well are lacking in virtue and outright unreasonable. This points toward the notion that the underlying message of the work as a whole functions to alter the basis of English society in hope ...


      • that they will adopt a simpler and more rational method much like that of the Houyhnhnms. One might wonder, if the purpose of the work is to prove that the Houyhnhnms live ideally and English society should mirror their way of life, why then does Gulliver simply withdraw himself from society instead of attempting to encourage England to change? Perhaps in removing himself from society, Gulliver is attempting to set an example to his family and his entire community. Or perhaps Gulliver is simply so disgusted by humans due to their striking resemblance to Yahoos that although he desires strongly to change them he simply cannot bear to be around them due to pure detestation and therefore his efforts would be fruitless.

        An additional explanation is that Gulliver simply misses the entire point of his travels. It is possible that Swift intends for the reader to understand that although Gulliver himself misses the point of his travels, ultimately to improve English society, the reader can still comprehend the message that humans should become more like the Houyhnhnms depicted in the story. The most questionable message that can be latently extracted from “Gulliver’s Travels” is that human society is in fact doing a decent job in coping with the problems it encounters. Although the work is satiric in nature and was seemingly written by Swift for the purpose of pointing out flaws in human nature, it is not impossible to extract instances within the text that point toward the success of society. The Houyhnhnms are depicted as extraordinarily logical creatures that structure their world around the concept of reason. However, they are also completely devoid of emotion. It is arguable that in this sense, humans are more highly advanced than their horse like counterparts in Houyhnhnmland due to the fact that they can actually experience the emotions that give life meaning.

        For example, Houyhnhnms choose their mates based upon genetics in an attempt to create the perfect offspring. This appears to be a beneficial institution upon first glance, but upon more careful examination, this means that they cannot and do not love. Love is one of the most preeminent emotions that can be experienced by a human being and falling in love is sometimes the main highlight of a person’s life. Love is one of the aspects of society that make life worth living. If the

        Houyhnhnms lack emotion and therefore the ability to love, their lives are less meaningless and therefore overall worse than those of humans. An additional example that points toward the notion that the underlying message of “Gulliver’s Travels” is that human nature is overall successful is the concept of export. The Houyhnhnms do not have a system of import and export due to the fact that they are able to live off of their own land.

        Humans once lived off their own land as well, until approximately 10,000 years ago during the Neolithic Revolution in an area known as the Fertile Crescent when agriculture was discovered. This insinuates the idea that human society is much more advanced than that of the Houyhnhnms. An additional example in support of this theory is the historical amplifications of China’s policy of isolation. China as well did not have a system of import/export until a few decades ago when they abandoned this system of economics due to poverty and unemployment. It initially appears that the Houyhnhnms was of life is ideal and the most obvious solution for humans is to conform to their lives of absolute perfection. However, this would mean living a life as hunter/gatherers devoid of emotion, love, and a functioning system of economics. It quickly becomes evident upon careful scrutinization that Houyhnhnms are in fact not an ideal race.

        This point is even further emphasized by the fact that they consider genocide as a solution to the Yahoos they dislike so strongly. While it is true that genocide exists in society today, at least it is illegal and suppressed when possible. Therefore it is extremely possible that the message of “Gulliver’s Travels” could in fact be to prove that humans are doing a miraculous job and are actually not in need of reform. It is blatantly obvious upon examination of the text of “Gulliver’s Travels” that the author, Jonathan Swift is attempting to convey a message through his words to his readers. However, the culmination of the work and the manner in which it is told creates a problematic situation for determining specifically what that message is, creating a stratification of possible messages. While it is obvious to many that Swift as a satirist wrote the book in order to portray the fallacies of human nature, there is evidence in the text that can support a realm of alternate interpretations.


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