Gulliver Houyhnhnms Analysis Essay

The last chapter of Gulliver's Travels provides a logical conclusion to the development of Gulliver's character. He goes from ordinary guy to dedicated hater of mankind. In the first part of the novel, he observes two islands, Lilliput and Blefuscu, which symbolize the smallness and insignificance of warfare between England and France. In the second part of the novel, Gulliver visits Brobdingnag, where the giants of the island make him feel small, and where the moral decision of the Brobdingnagian King not to use gunpowder foreshadows the peace-loving, delightful horsies in Houyhnhnm Land.

The third part pokes fun at airy and abstract thinking. And the fourth and final part, set in Houyhnhnm Land, reinforces all of the lessons Gulliver has learned so far:

  1. England (and Europe in general) really is stupid and violent.
  2. Being practical and simple, instead of luxurious and elaborate, leads to a better life.
  3. Actually, it's not just Europe that's bad, it's all of humankind.
Over the course of the four parts of Gulliver's Travels, Gulliver learns to hate humanity for its weakness and sinfulness (and remember, as we mentioned in "In a Nutshell," a satire is precisely designed to point out humanity's flaws). It makes sense that the final chapter really underlines this lesson. This is especially clear in the last several paragraphs. Gulliver informs us that he "began last week to permit [his] wife to eat dinner with [him]" (4.12.12). In other words, he has been home for five years, and he has only just overcome his hatred of people enough to let his wife sit at the dinner table with him – as long as she stays at the far end.Gulliver starts out as a traveler interested in observing his fellow man. But now, at the end of his enlightening stay with the Houyhnhnms, he has retreated to the interiors of his own mind. He can't stand the idea of leaving his house and garden. Gulliver has to look at his own face in the mirror to get used to the idea of being around humans again. He leaves us with a message describing just what disgusts him most about man: given that we are so vile, vicious, backstabbing, and greedy, how can we feel any pride in ourselves at all? And we at Shmoop have to be honest: if you finish Gulliver's Travels happy to be human, and with no desire to live among a herd of horses, you're stronger than we are. (For more on whether we buy Gulliver's final conversion to manhater, check out our "Character Analysis" of Houyhnhnm Land.)

As a product of an age that celebrated reason and was then apt to think of life as a comedy, Gulliver’s Travels, it should not go unsaid, is frequently funny. As an Irishman born in Dublin, Dean Swift of St. Patricks Episcopal Cathedral was inclined to blame the Whig administration in London for Irelands social ills. Satire is the outsiders mode, and Swift here uses and makes fun of the popular, first-person, sea voyage account. William Dampiers books of the late seventeenth century had been extremely successful in establishing the genre. Daniel Defoe had published the successful Robinson Crusoe in 1719, seven years before Swifts book appeared. Swift supported Irish aspirations for freedom from English domination and published his equally incendiary The Drapiers Letters anonymously in 1724. The Anglican clergyman in him also appreciated that some moral rearmament must accompany any political solution. It is this moral dimension, this focus on humankinds universal propensity to delude itself, that is the main appeal of the work for subsequent generations of readers, for whom the machinations of eighteenth century Westminster politicians mean very little.

Swift deliberately sets up Gullivers voyages in a realistic voyage framework. He provides maps of the voyages, complete with decorative, tiny, spouting whale drawings just like real maps. He also mixes actual places (Japan and Sumatra) with the imaginary.

Gullivers level of pride is fairly stable in part 1, where he has the physical and moral advantage over the tiny Lilliputians. In part 2, however, he reveals himself to be suffering from their destructive, hubristic attitude. Having boasted of the political and social situation in England, and then having offered the king of Brobdingnag gunpowder, Gulliver is roundly deflated by that monarch, who informs him that he must represent “the most pernicious race of little odious vermin nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.” In part 3, Gullivers pride expands even further when for an instant he envies the Struldbrugs immortality. His normal, high level of this vice, the most damning in the Christian scheme of things, returns in part 4, where he resents being treated like a Yahoo and envies the superrational Houyhnhnms.

Humankind exists, Swift suggests, between the animal world of the Yahoos and the rational world of the Houyhnhnms. Gullivers recourse to living in the stable with his horses on his return to England is hardly a solution. To be out of step with the entire human race is to be insane; some kind of balance, however precarious, is Swifts proposal in this, his only trip into the world of fantasy voyages.

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