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Gulliver's Travels - Gulliver in Houynhnmland

Uploaded by Quest4Glory on Jul 05, 2004

One of the most interesting questions about Gullivers Travels is whether the Houyhnhnms represent an ideal of rationality or whether on the other hand they are the butt of Swift's satire. In other words, in Book IV, is Swift poking fun at the talking horses or does he intend for us to take them seriously as the proper way to act? If we look closely at the way that the Houyhnhnms act, we can see that in fact Swift does not take them seriously: he uses them to show the dangers of pride.

First we have to see that Swift does not even take Gullver seriously. For instance, his name sounds much like gullible, which suggests that he will believe anything. Also, when he first sees the Yahoos and they throw excrement on him, he responds by doing the same in return until they run away. He says, "I must needs discover some more rational being," (203) even though as a human he is already the most rational being there is. This is why Swift refers to Erasmus Darwins discovery of the origin of the species and the voyage of the Beagle-to show how Gulliver knows that people are at the top of the food chain. But if Lemule Gulliver is satirized, so are the Houyhnhnms, whose voices sound like the call of castrati. They walk on two legs instead of four, and seem to be much like people. As Gulliver says, "It was with the utmost astonishment that I witnessed these creatures playing the flute and dancing a Vienese waltz. To my mind, they seemed like the greatest humans ever seen in court, even more dextrous than the Lord Edmund Burke" (162). As this quote demonstrates, Gulliver is terribly impressed, but his admiration for the Houyhnhnms is short-lived because they are so prideful. For instance, the leader of the Houyhnhnms claims that he has read all the works of Charles Dickens, and that he can singlehandedly recite the names of all the Kings and Queens of England up to George II. Swift subtly shows that this Houyhnhnms pride is misplaced when, in the middle of the intellectual competition, he forgets the name of Queen Elizabeths husband.

Swifts satire of the Houyhnhnms comes out in other ways as well. One of the most memorable scenes is when the dapple grey mare attempts to woo the horse that Guenivre has brought with him...

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Uploaded by:   Quest4Glory

Date:   07/05/2004

Category:   Literature

Length:   4 pages (835 words)

Views:   12808

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