This is a course blog for the members of EH236 at the University of South Alabama, Spring 2006.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Utopian Society?

In this story there are many suggestions that the Houyhnhnm society is less than utopic. Utopia means a society that would be perfect. When the Houyhnhnms are first described, it is stated that they know no evil. This may simply mean that the things they do and what they practice is not evil to them. The Houyhnhnms don't associate with the person they breed with after they have produced one of each sex, unless the production is lost due to some casualty. At that time they meet again to produce. That may suggest sex with a person other than your spouse, which is fornication, or premarital sex. They would also meet again to produce when one's wife was past bearing age, or could not produce anymore, this would constitute as adultery. When the Houyhnhnms marry they choose their mate by what color they were, so they would not create a disagreeable mixture of breed when they engaged in mating. This is a suggestion that the Houyhnhnms practiced discrimination or a form of racism amongst themselves. They don't think about courtship, love, presents, jointures, or settlements. The Houyhnhnms are a society that believes in arranged marriages, not marriages based on love or devotion. This is what they have learned from other Houyhnhnms. The yahoos which are a type of animal that inhabit the area where the Houyhnhnms live are mistreated by the Houyhnhnms. The Houyhnhnms keep the yahoos enslaved in kennels and try to tame them. They also entertain the idea that the yahoos are evil and they should be exterminated from the face of the earth. They even mention the word "hate" , that is not a word that is heard of in a utopian society. In a utopian society even the animals are treated fairly. A utopian society has love and happiness. The fact that the Houyhnhnms don't care about love or any type of emotions suggest that they are not perfect therefore they are not utopian. When people in their family die, they don't feel anything, happiness or sadness. A utopian society is full of emotion and feeling. The Houyhnhnm society is purely based on things they have learned or cultivated themselves. The goodness they portray is learned as well. The perfect world they proclaimed to live in was only perfect because they had nothing to compare their way of life to. How can the Houyhnhnms be a utopic society if they don't love their mates and they hate the yahoos? Maybe the Houyhnhnms having no religious background, or interest in religion, they had to create their own guidelines on life and morals. The Houyhnhnms were a strange people divided between some good and some bad. The text mention that they had servants, which they only allowed to have a little amount of time to themselves or to relax. This does not sound like a utopian society, because in a utopia everyone would be free. Everyone would have the same rights and privileges. The servants of the Houyhnhnms didn't get enough time to eat because they were always working. In my opinion a utopian society would not have servants, and if they did the servants would be treated with love and kindness just like everyone else in the community. The Houyhnhnms even saw death of their children an event governed by rules. They would not mourn the death of their children, they would just breed another child. If one family had two males and another family had two females, they would exchange one of each sex, so both families would have a boy and and girl. This once again shows that they were not governed by love or emotions. If they were then they could not give their children away to another family without missing them terribly. To come to conclusion, the Houyhnhnms were not the definition of a perfect society, which is the definition of a utopian society. They were far from that idea.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Far from Perfect

Far from Perfect

In Jonathan Swift's satire, Gulliver's Travels, the idea of a society where the word perfect was actually put to use is addressed. The Houyhnhnms portrayed the the utopian society, where they lived among each other in peace and rationalization- that is in their minds. Along with the Houyhnhnms were the Yahoos. The Yahoos were uncivil and irrational creatures that had no evidence of intelligence to the Houyhnhnms. The idea that the Houyhnhnms live in a flawless society where words such as a "lie" or "the things that were not" are not even in the their vocabulary, is one that I just can't seem to be convinced on.

The superior attitude the Houyhnhnms have towards the Yahoos is clear. The narrator hides himself from the Houyhnhnms in fear of their reaction to him, for he looks like the Yahoos. When they discover him without his clothes, his master analyzes his body and remarks, "it was plain that I must be a perfect Yahoo." In a utopian's outlook everyone is equal and loving. For a perfect society such as Houyhnhnms, you would think that judgment and discrimination would not exist. The Houyhnhnms used the Yahoos as their slaves and could justify the thought of killing a Yahoo, because they are uncivilized, worthless creatures. Does that sound utopian?

Among the severe discrimination against Yahoos, the Houyhnhnms discriminate against their very on species. "He made me observe, that among the Houyhnhnms, the white, the sorrel, and the iron-grey, were not exactly shaped as the bay, the dapple- grey, and the black; nor born with equal talents of the mind, or the capacity to improve them; and therefore continued alwaysin the condition of servants, without ever aspiring to matchout of their own race, which in that country would be reckoned monstrous and unnatural." The Houyhnhnms do not even allow them to try and achieve something great, they are just set to one standard for the rest of their lives. "Montrous and unnatural," such hateful words for a society of unity and equality. I guess in their dictionary of few words the definition of perfection was altered in their favor, because I do not know place racism and class discrimination are a means of perfection.

Swift is using the illustration of Houyhnhnms to show his reader the false ideas we create about our own society. The Houyhnhnms believe they are the superior and there is no question about it. They believe that their society is perfect the way it is, so there is not a need for change. That was the mind set of many people in authority during Swift's lifetime. It is still the mind set of the majority of human beings to this day. Our societies are not always welcoming to diversity and change, like the Houyhnhnms. We are just like the horses.

Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver’s Travels

In the beginning of Swift’s writing it is very questionable on how he feels about humankind and his own society, however, as we progress through the story, the reader can see how Swift’s opinion is portrayed through Gulliver. After he spends a long period of time with the “Houyhnhnms ,“ which are horses, he starts to address concerns about his own race. Throughout his stay, he is faced with some issues that make him question humans and the complex society that he lives in. Swift’s work becomes very misanthropic.

In the beginning of the story Gulliver is dropped off by his shipmates, and stranded on an island. He has no choice but to start exploring it. The first contact that he has with any form of life is with a “Yahoo,” which he describes as lazy, filthy, lustful, greedy, and aggressive. To him, they resemble an animal that acts as a hunter but in truth they are humans. He finds no desire to connect with . After a while he is introduced to another form of life, horses , known to the island as” Houyhnhnms.” He is taken to their “Master,” where he is demanded to stay. He learns their language and starts to communicate with the Master. He starts by telling him about his own race and where he is from and he tries to explain his society to him. During this time he is discovering his own mistakes and the ones that humans make. It becomes very hard for him to accept the society he came from. He learns their language on his own which impresses his master. Once he is able to carry on a conversation the master tells him that in their language they have no lies, as they call it to” say the thing that was not.” Their community is very pure and innocent. They have no desire to fight with one another or mistreat each other. The more Gulliver learns about their society to more he feels intrigued. Later during his stay he has a chance to learn about the Yahoos, which are very close to his race. He encounters a Yahoo female that wants to get friendly with him; however, he pulls away and decides that he has no desire to embrace humans of any form or kind. He starts to doubt if he ever wants to go back to his old life. Gulliver has discovered how bad humans really are and what they’re capable off. He doesn’t feel like he belongs with them. He becomes very hateful towards the human race and refuses to go back, even to his own family. He learns to love the community he’s with.

After a few years Gulliver had mastered the Houyhnhnm’s language and their rituals. He was content with living out his life with them. However, he is asked to leave the island by the Master because his tribe feels that even though he has mastered their language he still resembles a Yahoo and that is very much not acceptable in their community. In their presence the Yahoos are treated as animals, chained up. Out of the respect that he has towards his Master he has no choice but to set sail and return to his old life.

Eventually Gulliver succeeds in making it home, but finds out early that he does not fit in with the society he lives in. He doesn’t let his family anywhere near him and makes no effort to hide it. He feels as if the Houyhnhnms a perfect society that he found himself in sync with. He feels that he is surrounded by the Yahoo species and it strikes him with confusion and horror. In the search to cope with his situation he purchases tow horses. He feels that they’re the only creatures that can understand him. His behavior of not wanting to get back to his former life is a direct way of showing his dislike of humans in general. He can not tolerate his own family much less other people. He is drifting farther away from being a part of his society.

Swift made his work in the end very well read. It became very critical of humanity. He had no desire to explain any further than he already had. This made his work very “misanthropic”.

Is Gulliver's Travels a Misanthropic Work?

Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels is a powerful satire on the evil misgivings of human society. Unlike many satirical works Gulliver’s Travels use of simple language and fantastic imagery appeals to children, yet its underlying social themes could cause even the most optimistic man or woman to question the benefits of human society. By framing his work into a travel narrative (a very popular genre of the time), Swift takes his readers on a voyage to out of this world lands and, at the same time, causes readers to evaluate the very nature of human beings and civilization. Swift blatantly spoofs the governments, the judicial system, even the human specifies itself.

No better example of this satire can be found than in Gulliver’s final voyage that places him in the land of the Houyhnhnms. These are supremely rational horses and the ruler of their land. Because of their strong desire for truth, Houyhnhnms have no notion, even word, for lying which they call “saying the thing which is not”. This is in stark contrast to humans whose ability to lie was, according to Gulliver, “so perfectly well understood, and so universally practiced, among human creatures.” Furthermore, Houyhnhnms have “ no conceptions or ideas of what is evil”. Their principal virtues are “friendship and benevolence” treating strangers equally to that of their nearest neighbor.

But, to make the contrast between humans and Houyhnhnms more apparent, Swift describes a race of barbarous, irrational, humanlike animals called the Yahoo. They are often known to lob their wastes upon one another giving them a terrible smell. Furthermore, they would lustfully fight over certain “bright stones” found in the fields of the Houyhnhnm land. In fact, this character description leads many readers to suggest Gulliver’s Travels is a misanthropic work.

That conclusion can be supported by a variety of instances found in the text. For instance, in Gulliver’s first encounter with the Yahoo’s who are for all intents and purposes human, he describes them as “an ugly monster” and “very singular and deformed”. As Gulliver continues to live among the Houyhnhnms, he seems to become clearly hateful of Yahoos. On one occasion, he catches a Yahoo child and described it as an “odious vermin”. Gulliver shows his slight value for human life by using Yahoo skins as clothing, and when a discussion was made among the Houyhnhnm General Assembly about exterminating the Yahoo race, he makes no defense for humankind. The theme of Guillver’s hatred for humans is climaxed when he is told he must leave the Houyhnhnm land that he has grown to love so much. He exclaims: “that the certain prospect of an unnatural death was the least of my evils, for supposing I should escape with life by some strange adventure, how could I think with temper of passing my days among Yahoos”. Thus, Gulliver would rather die than live among his own people in civilization again, for to him, they were debased Yahoos too.
Nonetheless, he must leave. But, he plans not to go home, but to find some small-uninhabited island so that he can, in solitude, “ reflect with delight on the virtues of those imitable Houyhnhnms, without any opportunity of degenerating into the vices and corruption of my own species.” So, despite years away from his home and family, his hatred for mankind has forced him into seclusion. Yet, fate would not allow it. He is discovered by Portuguese seaman and is forcibly rescued and given passage to Lisbon. Gulliver describes the Captain of the vessel as “courteous and generous”, but not even he could change Gullivers view sof fellow Yahoos. He is determined to “suffer the greatest hardships rather than return to live among Yahoos.” Another example of his hatred for humans is found in his dealings with his family when he returns home again. He would neither eat with them, nor talk with them. The very smell of them made him ill. Instead, he would spend time conversing with his two new horses of “at least four hours a day”.

Clearly, Gulliver developed a great contempt fir man while in the presence of the supremely rational Houyhnhnms. Yet, one must wonder how much of it was the character of Gulliver or the beliefs of Swift. He is once quoted as saying to Alexander Pope, “I have ever hated all nations, professions, and communities.” Certainly, Swift could not have given Gulliver such strong opinions without being able to empathize with those views at some level. Although he claims to love individuals, both Swift and Gulliver “principally hate that animal called man” which is a key indicator of misanthropy.

A Misanthropic Work

In order to describe if Gulliver’s Travels was a misanthropic work, I first wanted to make sure I really knew what a misanthropic work was. A misanthropic work, by definition, is one that is marked by a hatred or contempt for humankind. After reading Gulliver’s Travels, I firmly believe it is a misanthropic work due Gulliver’s description and views of mankind. Along with his descriptions of mankind, it is the conclusion that Gulliver is also a Yahoo that really grabbed my attention. This really says one thing to me about human nature: often times the things that we hate and pretend not to be are what we really are on the inside.

Gulliver is stranded on an island where the Houyhnhnms live, as well as Yahoos. After staying with the Houynhnms, Gulliver begins to learn their language. One of the first things he does is describe his country, England. Gulliver describes everything there is to know about England: the law, wars, even property disputes. During all these descriptions, the master is amazed to see how irrational humans are. After listening for months on England, the master comes to the following conclusion:
“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; which was therefore a character we had no pretence to challenge, even from the account I had given of my own people….”
I believe Swift is trying to make a point that the things humans do are pointless, and often times unnecessary. Everything in the Houynhnms culture is for a reason, and although there society is not perfect, they valued friendship and benevolence above everything else. Humans tend to value glory, power, and wealth. It’s not just what humans value that the Houynhnms don’t understand, it’s also the way they act. When describing war, for example, the master can’t grasp why someone would intentionally harm someone from the same race. The Houyhnhnms have such a pure outlook on life that no words exist to describe the evil found in England.
Gulliver is at first appalled by the Yahoos, often times revolted by them. But he comes to realize this one important thing: although Yahoos may not dress or be as civilized as the rest of humanity, in reality humans were Yahoos by nature. Gulliver may have tried to fight this belief, even deny it, just like humans today do. Humans today describe how disgusted we are with the wars of the past and of the thousands of people who had to die for no reason. We describe how disgusted we are with how humans used to be, that we’ve matured, changed…gotten better. Sure, we have changed: we look different, talk differently, and have technology. But our basic nature is still the same: we fight, love, and murder. Gulliver realizes that humans are Yahoos, performing barbaric acts such as war, murder, even stealing. You can dress the creature differently, make him talk and walk differently, but one thing you can’t change: his nature. Gulliver found something out something that is still true today: you can’t make someone change who they are.

Stephanie Bosarge

Is Gulliver's Travels a misanthropic work?

I picked this question because before this class I had no idea what misanthropic meant. Even though it was explained in class, I decided to look it up, just to be sure. According to Webster a misanthrope is someone who hates or distrusts people. Now this is very interesting because hate and distrust are two very different things. One can distrust something without hating it. This, I think, is true for Gulliver at the beginning of his relationship with his Master. He very clearly has a distrust of people with certain titles such as the ambitious prince or the corrupt mister. He says of the Chief Minister of State “that he never tells a truth, but with the intent that you take it for a lie; nor a lie, but with the design that you should take it for a truth.” He also says, referring to lawyers, “ there was a society of men among us, bred up from their youth in the art of proving … that white is black, and black is white according as they are paid. To this society all the rest of the people are slaves.” This sounds as if it is not the people that Gulliver distrusts, but the society where the currupt have all the power. As he spends time observing the Yahoos he starts to se himself in them. The majar turning point for Gulliver is when he is attack sexually by a Yahoo. It is then that his distrust of society truns into a hatered of all people; or if it is not hatred, an extreame degree of disgust. He can no longer even distinguish between humans and the “insolent, abject and cruel” Yahoos.
Which brings us to my point. While Gulliver may be viewed as a misanthrope, the story is not a misanthropic work. One cannot forget that Swift is writing from the Gulliver’s point of view for a reason. Through Gulliver and his misanthropy, Swift can piont out the shortcomings of society without having to face the consequences of being bluntly critical himself. Swift does not write in hatred of the human race, but to show society it’s faults in hopes that people will improve themselves and their surroundings. He knows that there is good in people, and shows this through Pedro de Mendez. Even though Don Pedro is keeping Gulliver captive, he is really trying to help. He is actually a very important charater in the story. His pupose is to bring Gulliver back into society. Gulliver says that don Pedro told him "as a matter of honour and conscience, that I ought to return to my native country, and live at home with my wife and children." Through Don Pedro, Swift is trying to tell us that we cannot simply hide away from the evils in the world. We must face them.

Is Gulliver's Travels a misanthropic work?

A Man of Reason ?

I am not going to pretend to know whether Swift hated humankind or not but by reading Gulliver’s Travels and other works by him I do not feel that he does. I do feel that he gets frustrated with things humans do and he comes up with very creative, sometimes warped, satires to get his point across to as many as possible. If a person despised humankind one would think that, he/she would go about his/her way and not waste any energy on trying to make a group of people better and fix situations that are immoral, so I do not believe that Gulliver’s Travels is a misanthropic work or that Swift has a hatred or scornfulness towards humankind.

Swift is someone, to me, that was probably more intelligent and wise than most others in his time. He seems to look at every situation with an open mind and clear head. It is hard for a person that does not just go along with society to agree with and be okay with every perverse or corrupt thing that occurs around them. People like this tend to notice things that are not “quite right” more than most because they will reason through something rather than simply agree because someone over them said so. It is hard for someone of this nature to sit back and let corrupt things continue without doing anything to help with the situation. Swift had the opportunity to do this in his writing. He seems to take the person out of his narratives as much as possible in the sense that the average person that reads Gulliver’s Travels will not see himself or herself as a Yahoo until the end of the tale, which should then cause the reader to contemplate his message.

Swift seems to be trying to get the message of “world peace” out to his readers. He describes a society that knows no falsehoods and cannot fathom fighting over things the way “Yahoo’s”; the human race does. He writes about the irrational things humans do to others of their race or kind and paints a picture of how the world would be if ALL humans could be completely rational in ALL their dealings.

Some might say in chapter 11 Swift writes as though he detests humankind. Gulliver’s actions are cruel and irrational towards humankind when he returns home. I feel that Swift is just describing change. For a person to make as dramatic of a change as he feels should take place among the human race is very difficult and would not be a smooth transition. His or her old ways will show through every now and then. Maybe Swift is referring to an individual making this change, and how hard it would be to hang on to what is virtuous and great in the midst of everything that is not. Just as Gulliver came back into society trying to maintain the qualities in his life that he learned from the Houyhnhnm’s in a society where it is difficult to continue with these virtues.

Julie Adkison

An Individual’s Reasoning of Swift’s Satire

I believe people can make a good argument supporting either the notion that Gulliver’s Travels is a misanthropic work or opposing this belief. After reading the excerpt, it is obvious Swift is severely criticizing “civilized” human society and its reasoning for the inhuman, contradictory and unjust things people do to each other.
Reason plays a major role in Gulliver’s account. It provides a standard by which the Houyhnhnms judge Gulliver’s description of the other Yahoos existing throughout the world who seem to possess this trait yet do not know how to use it in the correct manner, according to his master and eventually to Gulliver himself.
Swift’s story and the manner in which he deconstructs society, laying bare all its faults, directly falls in line with Enlightenment ideals that place major emphasis on using reason. Using this reason, Enlightenment thinkers believed it was essential to observe, analyze, compare and discuss. I believe this is what Swift attempted to do with this story.
He wanted to create a story that brought to light all of European society’s faults, shortcomings and lack of proper reasoning concerning aspects of life with which people concerns themselves such as “power, government, law, punishment and a thousand other things.” In order to make this kind of harsh criticism suitable for wary readers at that time, Swift developed a fantastical setting and story to go along with such a hard-to-swallow depiction of humans.
The imaginative tale encourages people to plunge into the story before they even realize it is actually a satire on the world in which they place their trust. I like the way in which Swift makes the whole idea of the story even more ironical by Gulliver’s assurance at the end of the story, “Besides, I meddle not the least with any party, but write without passion, prejudice, or ill-will against any man or number of men whatsoever.”
Considering this sentence and the few last pages of Gulliver’s account in which he attempts to explain to the reader the logic behind his musings, it is clear that Swift seeks to accomplish with his story all of the things Gulliver is denying.
Taking all of this into account and the story as a whole, I do not believe Gulliver’s Travels is a complete misanthropic work. I believe Swift obviously had many strong notions about the major and minor flaws within human society, but I do not believe this story was meant to express a complete hatred for humankind. I believe Swift was more concerned and disturbed by the behavior of man when belonging to and acting within the standards of distinct groups, such as lawyers, armies and families.
I draw my support for this argument from a letter Swift wrote to Alexander Pope in 1725 in which he expressed, “I have ever hated all nations, professions, and communities, and all my love is toward individuals.” Swift could find redeeming qualities in a single person that gave him or her the potential for great reasoning, as he shows with Gulliver, who is exalted by the Houyhnhnms and his master to be a clean, rational Yahoo. However, when put into groups, regardless of the nature of the groups, Swift believes man’s strong inclination towards power, desire, wealth, dishonesty, etc., prevails. As a result, society suffers and humans are no better than those we view as savages, no better than the Yahoos.

Less than Perfection

In Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” the reader is constantly reminded of reason. In the story, a sea captain by the name of Gulliver is abandoned on a remote island after mutiny takes place on his ship. His new captors leave him on this island without offering him any prior knowledge as of what may await him there. Gulliver fears that the first group of savages he encounters may tear him to pieces. As he explores this new land he comes across a village where he first sees a creature with striking human-like characteristics. Swift later describes these beings as Yahoos. Strikingly, they act nothing like humans at first, but more like wild creatures. His encounter with the Yahoos is unpleasant at best and two horse-like creatures known as Houyhnhnms save him. From the start Gulliver notices that these beings act by no means in the same fashion as the horses he had come to experience in the past. They take him to their village and investigate his every move. It is during this investigation when Gulliver realizes that the Houyhnhnms have order to their ways and even seem to uses a language, which he is later able to imitate.

Gulliver spends the better half of the reading describing how he came to the island and how he is different than the vile Yahoos. He tells stories of his society back home and how his people are nothing like the Yahoos. The Houyhnhnms society is one solely based on reason. They are better in every aspect than the Yahoos.

The initial sign that the Houyhnhnms do not contain a utopian society is seen when Gulliver realizes some sort of hierarchical scale. The stronger stags, such as his master, are the ones in charge. In order to make him appear less like a Yahoo, Gulliver keeps his clothes on when ever he is in the presence of a Houyhnhnm. This is his most important method of maintaining the illusion that he is in no form a Yahoo. Unfortunately his cover is blown one morning when a servant of his master sees him without his full attire. His master does not however relate his discovery to the others, but rather does something else. In the same matter that Gulliver has hidden the truth about his identity, his master has done the same by concealing what he knows about Gulliver. His master also continues to believe that Gulliver is different than the other creatures even though the thought is beyond reason.

Their society has its flaws nonetheless. Unlike the Yahoos, the Houyhnhnms are the only creatures on the island to be immune to any disease, but make “Medicines composed of herbs, to cure accidental bruises and cuts in the pastern or frog of foot by sharp stones, as well as other maims and hurts in several parts of the body.” However they are mortals because “If they can avoid casualties, they die of old age.”

In the realm of marriage, the Houyhnhnms lack the act of courtship due to the arrangement of matrimony conducted by the elders. As much as Gulliver exalts the many virtuous facets their society, in the end he sees their true colors. At an assembly, the Houyhnhnms discuss the extermination of all Yahoos and their concern with Gulliver. Ultimately he is forced to leave the island or suffer the same fate as the Yahoos.

The society of the Houyhnhnms seems perfect at times throughout the reading, but in the end contains its own failings and errors.

Swift's Misanthropic Story

Jonathon Swift’s story, Gulliver’s Travels, is a fictional story of a man named Lemuel Gulliver who undertakes in several voyages. “On his first voyage, he is shipwrecked on the shores of Lilliputians, who initially appear to be an enchantingly tiny and delicate people.” (143). Gulliver progressively notices their minor political principles and narrow minded ways, and is later charged with several crimes. Gulliver’s second voyage lands him among the people known as Brobdingnagians. He is, without delay, appalled by their frank dialogue and bodily disfigurement. His third voyage is at the Grand Academy of Lagado. Scientists employed therein do not care how impractical or insignificant their experiments are, just so long as the experiment itself is taking place. Gulliver’s fourth and final voyage ends him in the country of the Houyhnhnms. This small island consists solely of two creatures; the Houyhnhnms, which are extremely rational horses, and the Yahoos, which were a very ill-tempered and degenerate version of the human race. Given those brief descriptions of each voyage, it is easy for one to form an opinion of Jonathon Swift’s work as being misanthropic in form.

In each voyage, the human races are described in the worst imaginable way; Gulliver becomes very nit picky and shows little or no remorse towards them. That is clearly obvious in his description of the Brobdingnagians. He depicts them by saying “Brobdingnagians warts and pimples appear the size of boulders.” (143). The Yahoos are repeatedly referred to as being lazy, filthy, lustful, greedy, barbaric, and lack the ability to learn. Yet, how corrupted Swift intended on the Yahoos looking is still to this day an unclear issue. Though, given those two descriptions of each race, one can already see or feel the disgust towards the human race itself. The Houyhnhnms (horses) were always referred to as being very rational and well developed animal, while never failing to mention how barbaric and irrational the lifestyle of the Yahoos were.

During Gulliver’s entire stay at the island, he completely (outside of one encounter with a young female Yahoo that lasted only for a brief moment) disassociated himself from the Yahoos. Not only did he completely separate himself from Yahoos during the entire visit, but he also kept himself distant from his family once returning home. He no longer wanted to have contact with any human whatsoever. Also, Gulliver is asked, by his “Master,” many times to explain where he is originally from and in what manner his society operated. Not one time, in any of those explanations, does Gulliver mention any of the good habits or deeds of his old way of life. Those actions alone are proof enough for me that this is a misanthropic work.

Swift still manages to keep separation from his misanthropic character. It is still not a clear picture as to exactly where he would place humanity between the Houyhnhnms and the Yahoos. Posing the question “Is Gulliver’s Travels a misanthropic work?” may indeed arrive with many different answers, but in my own opinion; I would have to say that John Swift uses his character Gulliver to express his own misanthropic views of the human society. Many people believe that the Yahoos are Swift’s views of the human race, and show his actual animosity towards it. So to answer the question; yes I believe Jonathon Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels is a misanthropic story.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

I'd Rather Be a Horse

Is Gulliver’s Travels a misanthropic work? Well, based on the work and character created by Smith in this story it is easy to say that yes, this story does in fact possess what would prove to be a misanthropic view. The character, Gulliver, will through the progression of the story reach a general distaste for the entire race of yahoos (humans).

As Gulliver is first introduced, he is at sea with his men whom at this time he has no ill feelings towards, for at the beginning of part IV there is not a sure sense that Gulliver is at all one to be considered as a misanthrope. It is not until he finds himself on the Huoyhnmhms Land that he develops this incredible disgust for yahoos. While the way Gulliver’s extreme dislike for humans comes about, it is disturbing (at least in the sake of Gulliver) the intensity in which it reaches. It is through the long and meaningful conversations between Gulliver and his master that he reaches this conclusion.

The reader comes to realize Gulliver’s changing aspect on the race about the same time that he himself begins to notice a change. As would seem likely, after years of thorough discussion on the topic, Gulliver not only grows a larger hatred towards the yahoos of the island, but he also begins to see the humans of his homeland in much the same light as his virtuous master; as a somewhat civilized, speech gifted yahoo sharing many of the same vices as those of the island, as well as others. This of course, is not where it ends. It reaches the point to which Gulliver can barely stand the site of his own reflection, or as the book reads, “When I happened to behold the reflection of my own form in a lake or fountain, I turned away in horror and detestation of myself, and could better endure the sight of a common Yahoo, than of my own person.”

It is possible that some of the vices and ignorance uncovered by Gulliver and his master could in fact be representations of thoughts and opinions held by Smith himself. While I am not certain of this, I have read that from Smith’s, Gulliver’s Travel and A Tale of a Tub that these ideas are ones in which he shares. Whatever the case, be it to throw in a taste of what Smith feels to be a case of human error or the simple point of entertaining, it is succeeded in every way.
The end of the story is no substitute to the on going feeling of misanthropy. As the story reads, Gulliver has to train himself to even stand the company of his family. Gulliver’s Travels creates a misanthropic mood and holds onto to it to the end. The ways in which Smith describes in so many different ways in so many different parts of the story the despicable qualities of the yahoo is truly impressive:

I enjoyed perfect health of body and tranquility of mind; I did not feel the treachery of a friend, nor the injuries of a secret or open enemy. I had no occasion of bribing, flattering or pimping, to procure the favor of any great man or of his minion. I wanted no fence against fraud or oppression; here was neither physician to destroy my body, nor lawyer to ruin my fortune; no informer to watch my words and actions, or forge accusations against me for hire: here were no gibers, censurers, backbiters, pickpockets, highwaymen, house-breakers, attorneys, bawds, buffoons, gamesters, politicians, wits, splenetic, tedious talkers, controvertists, ravishers, murderers, robbers, virtuosos; no leaders or followers of party and factions, no encouragers to vice, by seducement or examples; no dungeons, axes, gibbets, whipping posts, or pillories; no cheating shopkeepers or mechanics’ no pride, vanity, or affection; no fops, bullies, drunkards, strolling whores, or poxes; no ranting lewd, expensive wives; no stupid, proud pendants, no importunate, overbearing, quarrelsome, noisy, roaring, empty, conceited, swearing companions; no scoundrels, raised from the dust for the sake of their vices, or nobility thrown into it on account of their virtues; no lords, fiddles, judges, or dancing-masters.”

Gulliver's Misanthropic Travels

In Gulliver's Travels, many themes are prevalent. Swift is obviously trying to sway the reader's mind in many aspects, including the issue of colonization. There is one theme that seems to stick out the most to me. It is the most focused on and the most obvious: That the entire human race cannot be trusted-- with power or each other.
Gulliver encounters two different types of creatures when he reaches an unknown shore. He describes the first group of inhabitants in utter disgust. These creatures are far worse than uncivilized. Gulliver describes these people as hairy and unkempt- a very ugly breed. He deems them not worthy of any attention or much thought and continues on his way. He then meets the more "civilized" Houyhnhnms, which are creatures who resemble horses. These animals tell Gulliver that the uncivilized creatures are called "Yahoos".
At first, Gulliver is interested in the Houyhnhnms because he feels that they are somehow magical-- which is, of course, an assumption that any "rational" human would make about talking horses. He leads the reader to believe that there is more than meets the eye when the Houyhnhnms are concerned. However, as he continues his research, he finds that they are just a different kind of creature than he thought. They are just as they were presented-there is nothing more to them. The Yahoos, on the other hand, are presented as something totally different than they are. At first, the reader thinks that these creatures are out of this world. However, as Gulliver continues to describe this group, it becomes clear that this is a group of (uncivilized) humans.
Throughout his contact with these groups of animals, Gulliver stays clear to his misanthropic theme of mistrust. While subtle hints of the mistrust of humans might be touched on at different points, it is when Gulliver becomes engaged in conversation with the master of the Houyhnhnms, that he is straightforward of how humans of his world are not the most trustworthy. When he speaks of war, for example, he talks of the reason behind it- including a prince's abuse of power, an untrustworthy minister and difference of opinion. The Houyhnhnm leader is appalled by this because he realizes that people who are capable of reason are also capable of acting like Yahoos.
Gulliver then enters a conversation with the Honour about law and lawyers. In one line he writes "My master was yet wholly at a loss to understand what motives could incite this race of lawyers to perplex, disquiet and weary themselves, and engage in a confederacy of disjustice, merely for the sake of injuring their fellow-humans"(171). This perfectly describes Gulliver's outlook on humankind. During all of his conversations, he views humans as people who want to back-stab each other and are not worthy of trust. Gulliver himself is like this, especially in the beginning when he disguises himself so the Houyhnhnms will not know that he is more Yahoo-looking than them.
Toward the end of the tale, Gulliver has transformed. He has decided that he wants to stay on the island with the Houyhnhnms. He is so cynical about the human race, that he would rather live among the horse-like, innocent and almost dumb Houyhnhnms than return to a land of somewhat civilized European Yahoos.

no grey please

No Grey Please !!!

The Houyhnhms society represents a society that has ideal citizens. They have

no idea of what “the area grey” is. The author uses an example that the

Houyhnhnms believe that people are bred up to be either “white or black” and

to all the rest are slaves. This way of living and thinking, in the white or black

area, is done by existing with all proper actions and there is nothing else. An

example is when Gulliver is talking to his master and he observes that; “among

the Houyhnhnms, the white, the sorrel, and the iron- grey, were not exactly

shaped as the bay, the dapple-grey, and the black; that was born without equal

talents of the mind, and have no capacity to improve them then they lie in the

area of grey or left as slaves. The Houyhnhms believe these countries that allow

such activites to be “unnatural” and “monstrous”. Gulliver had to hide his flaws

or ,“the things which were not”, from the rest of the clan to be accepted by in

their society. There is not even room for individual identity within

theHouyhnhms existence. They are not even given names by the author which

should suggest how lack there of, a human individual is.

The Houyhnhms do not even assign the meanings to words such as

friendship and love. They replace the parenting role with all day studies on how

to be with a proper “reason” way of thinking instead of nurturing the small

child with by all means a reasonable amount of educational practice. When a

Houyhnhm marries, he or she marries because of an appropriate mixture it

shall create, not because of love and passion. For they know not of what these

things are.

There is a disregard for human life amongst them also. When a child dies,

he or she is just replaced with another one from a stronger breed. This lack of

emotional feeling and incapacity to know anything other than a “rational” way

to exist is all but the flaws that our society indulges on. We go to war on the

smallest doubt of insecurity in our nation, but we can still feel the difference of

knowing the lack of peace of mind or not. If we did not possess these kinds of

irrational feelings then we would be in the same rejection of existence that the

Houyhnhms possess. I like feeling love even if it hurts sometimes. I even like

felling scared because I know I will only feel safe later. Our existence would lack

the things that it has in the irrational world of the Houyhnhms. Our life would be governed by what was preconsidered instead of choosing ones own destiny.

What would one feel they lacked or gained if there wasn’t anything there to

start with?

Gulliver realized in the end that “having family, friends, countrymen, and a

human race in general” was a pretty good thing after all. Living like a “Yahoo”

was an ideal way of life compared to not a way at all. There are certain things

that could make an idealized world better but taking them all out would take

all the fun and excitement out now wouldn’t it? Unfortunately things

sometimes will look like flaws in our society but maybe the end result of them

will enlighten us to a more rational way to accomplish things. A Houyhnhms

society would lack this balance of right and wrong and lack us the opportunity

to learn for ourselves what lingers in the irrational and rational smorgasbord

of what we call thinking.

Gulliver's Travels: Misanthropic

In Swift's story, Gulliver's Travels, Swift has a very exaggerated, horrible, and very uneducated opinion of humankind. The character in the story, Gulliver, experiences many situations during his voyages. He voyages many different place, but one of his most important and most impacting voyage was when he discovered the land of the Yahoos and the Houyhnhnms.

Upon Gulliver's arrival to the land of the Yahoos and Houyhnhnms, he sees the Yahoos and makes his first judgment, based on his first site of the Yahoos, very quickly. He explains the Yahoos to be very disgusting, uneducated, ruthless, and illmanored. During his stay at the land of the Yahoos and Houyhnhnms, he continued wearing his clothing so as not to dare be compared to the Yahoos, of which he absolutely despised. Gulliver hated the Yahoos so much that he could not even bear the site or smell of the Yahoos. Gulliver did not even recognize the Yahoos as humans. Now the Houyhnhnms, also known as the horses, were a completely different story. He liked the Houyhnhnms very much. He liked them so much, the Houyhnhnms were the only living things on the land of the Yahoos and Houyhnhnms that he even liked to associate with. He even went as far as saying he and the Houyhnhnms could speak to one another. That seemed very far fetched that Gulliver was able to speak horse language, but that is what he liked associating, communicating, and "hanging out" with while he was on the land of the Yahoos and Houyhnhnms.

Once Gulliver was finally rescued from the land of the Yahoos and Houyhnhnms, he was rescued by the European Yahoos. The captain of whom rescued Gulliver wanted to talk to Gulliver but Gulliver tried his best to avoid the captain. Gulliver did not want to be on the boat with the Yahoos so bad that tried to fall overboard of the ship so he would not be riding on the same boat of the Yahoos. The thought that Gulliver was finally able to go home should have been very exciting and relieving for Gulliver, but the thought of having to ride on the same boat with any type of Yahoos was completely devastating to Gulliver.

Once Gulliver finally arrived home, the normal attitude should have been relieved and happy to finally be home, but not Gulliver. Gulliver could not even stand the thought, site, or the company of his own wife and children. He thought of his own family as nasty, gross, and having a bad smell. He would have much rather been with his horse friends, the Houyhnhnms.

The idea of the Yahoos being so disgusting, uneducated, ruthless, an illmanored was portrayed as the character Gulliver's opinion, but Swift is the writer of this story so the idea and opinion must did indeed originate from Swift. Does Swift think that his written opinion of the Yahoos is true, or was this just his opinion to be carried out through Gulliver? The interpretation of the Yahoos were very much absurd and exaggerated.


A Less Than Utopian Society

Deniese Willard
EH 236
Dr. Shlensky
January 23, 2006
A Less Than Utopian Society
Jonathan Swift’s book Gulliver’s Travels is about a man named Gulliver who makes many travels, and on one of his journeys, falls into misfortune. He is taken captive by his own crew and is forced onto a seemingly deserted island. Gulliver finds, however, after some exploration, that he is not alone. The first creature that he comes across resembles humans, however, he says that he has never encountered “so disagreeable an animal.” He describes one of the creatures as being an “ugly monster” for which he has nothing but antipathy and contempt. The next creature Gulliver comes across is a horse, which he soon realizes carries great authority in the land in which he has arrived.
Gulliver is directed to the home of this horse, and soon learns to communicate with him. He learns that horses in this land are called Houyhnhnms, which means in their language, “the perfection of nature.” He also learns that the first creature that he had observed was a Yahoo. They are considered to be the vilest and most contemptuous creatures of the land. The horse, which he soon comes to call his master, is convinced that Gulliver is a Yahoo but is amazed at his “teachableness, civility, and cleanliness.” As Gulliver continues to learn the language, he also learns more about the Houyhnhnms and their way of life.
He learns that in this land, the Yahoos are slaves to the Houyhnhnms. They are the lowest creatures in the land, full of hate, greed, and filth. The Houyhnhnms have a strictly structured society. The Houyhnhnms are at the top of all the creatures, however, there is even distinction among themselves. The white, sorrel and iron-gray are not as great as the black, bay, and dapple Houyhnhnms. They are very rational creatures, believing solely in reason and not emotions or passions. They believe also in virtues, and adhere to their principles. They live at peace with one another, and have no conception of falsehood or evil.
Gulliver, who has been slighted by his fellow humans, easily accepts the Houyhnhnms’ way of life, increasingly despising the human race. While he sees them as perfect and portrays the Houyhnhnms as a Utopian society, the reader is given clues as to the many ways in which it is not so faultless.
One hint that the reader has that the Houyhnhnm society is not so perfect is that there is such a strict structure to society that includes discrimination. The white, iron-gray, and bay horses are not as great as the black, bay and dapple-gray horses. They are supposedly not shaped as well as the others and are not born with “equal talents of mind, or a capacity to improve them.” Therefore, they are reduced to servitude, which is not characteristic of a Utopian society.
Another example in the tale is that the Yahoos are enslaved by the Houyhnhnms. In a Utopian society there would be no slaves. They are forced to serve them, being kept like livestock in a stable, tied with ropes about their necks. They fear the Houyhnhnms, greatly and with good reason.
Another example that their society is less than utopic is the mention of genocide of the Yahoos. At a Great Assembly of the Houyhnhnms, the representatives debate whether Yahoos should be exterminated from the face of the earth. They mention all the problems that the Yahoos cause, and suggest that jackasses would be a preferable work animal. This idea of genocide is not characteristic of a Utopian society.
In these three examples, the reader can detect that the Houyhnhnm society is not quite Utopian. Though Gulliver comes to love their culture and its values, he is eventually forced to return home, in which he is never comfortable again. The Houyhnhnms’ narrow-minded teachings and principles have ruined his ability to fellowship with other humans. He despises himself as a human and all other humans. These are not the marks of a Utopian society. The reader discovers that despite Gulliver’s claims to the perfection of the Houyhnhnms, their society is slightly less than utopic.

The Misanthropic Nature of Gulliver and Swift

In the introduction of Gulliver’s Travels, the editor writes, “at the heart of Gulliver’s Travels lies the question, what does it mean to be a human being”. The answer, as expressed in the story, is given in a misanthropic way. Through Gulliver, hatred and mistrust of humankind is expressed as a very prominent emotion in the story.
From the beginning of part four of Gulliver’s Travels, Swift’s description of the Yahoos, the human race of the country, immediately shows a hatred for human kind. His description leads contemporary society to envision a cave man like creature. Gulliver, in the beginning, does not recognize the similarities between the Yahoos and himself. Through this omission of thought, he is able to express his true hatred for the creatures. He states that, “I never beheld in all my travels so disagreeable an animal, nor one against which I naturally conceived so strong antipathy”. Such a strong statement towards the appearance of the human form is a direct acknowledgement of the misanthropic nature of the work.
Gulliver’s portrayal off human nature seems to omit all positive aspects while highlighting all the negative aspects. In areas in which there are good aspects to the things he depicts, he exaggerates in such a way that he is able to portray everything in an evil light. Gulliver tells of criminals, war, lawyers and the law, medicine, and disease. He tells nothing of education, God, love, or family.
The first of the negative actions portrayed by Gulliver is lying. The houyhnhnms have no term for lying for it defeats the soul purpose of communications, “to make us understand one another, and to receive information of facts”. Through the eyes of the houyhnhnms we are able to see the irrationality of lying. Gulliver himself, states that he “learned from his example an utter detestation of all falsehood or disguise”. Portrayal of truth and lies in this way shows the disdain towards just one human habit.
The next appalling habit portrayed is the nature of some humans to commit crimes. He explains that there are people who committed acts of drinking, whoring, gaming, murder, theft, and rape. Nowhere in his depiction of human kind does he tell of the good in people. Once again, through omission of facts, the reader can understand the total disregard for the human race through the story of Gulliver’s Travels.
Even the depiction of law is skewed into the most negative possible light. He does not tell of the need for law to protect the people from the criminals, instead it is portrayed as a protector of criminals.
Swift depicts many actions of humans as extremely irrational. This is done through exaggerations by Gulliver, the complete omission of the positive aspects of human nature, and through the judgment made upon the actions by the extremely “rational” houyhnhnms. While it is unclear if the misanthrope of Gulliver’s Travels is Gulliver himself or Jonathan Swift, an author tends to write what he knows. While Swift’s feelings may not have been as extreme as those depicted in this story, it appears that some amount of disdain toward humankind must have existed for Jonathan Swift.


In Swift's Gullivers Travels the Houyhnhnms exhibit a less than utpoic society. After being cast away on a desolate island Gulliver encounters two unique inhabitant societies. The first being the Yahoos, a descendant of a marooned human couple. The Yahoos are described as being lazy,filthy,lustful,greedy and aggressive. They are degenterate human beings. Some believe the Yahoos are a reflection of Swift's own hatred of people and society.

The second species Gulliver encountered were the Houyhnhnms, a horse like creature. According to The Bedford Anthology of World Literature, the Houyhnhnms cannot be read as simple allegorical figures for good of human reason. Their society should not be interpreted as perfect. Their society included discrimination and enslavement of the Yahoos, a breed that they considered to be less than they were and not worthy of anything more.

Gulliver was impressed with the Houyhnhnms way of life. After being treated so poorly be the human race he easily converted to their ways . The Houyhnhnms which appeared to be ordinary horses Gulliver at first considered to be some form of magicians. He observed their behavior to be rational,acute,and judicious, although they appeared to be ordinary livestock. The Houyhnhnms took Gulliver in and cared for him as though he was a house pet. They offered him food and shelter in a stable that he shared with the Yahoos.

Gulliver and his master quickly developed a relationship. The master horse and Gulliver learned to communicate to each other as Gulliver learned the language of the Houyhnhnms . The word Houyhnhnm itself in their language meant horse and stood for the perfection of nature, which in itself displayed their own arrogance. Gulliver thought the Houyhnhnm society to be perfect and adapted very well. The horses appeared to be kind and gracious. Although they had no compassion or understanding for the Yahoo community that they thought so poorly upon. Many of the Houyhnhnms even Gulliver's master house thought him to be a advanced Yahoo. Gulliver soon developed the same disregard for the Yahoo and displayed the same prejudice as the Houyhnhnms . They enslaved the Yahoos using them for labor as thought they were cattle. They even considered time and time again at district Houyhnhnm meeting to exterminate the Yahoo breed from the world. This way of thinking and disregard for life expressed their less than utopic way of life. The Houyhnhnms were incapable of showing compassion for those less than their own standards.

The Houyhnhnms also had many other down falls . As Gulliver and his master communicated with each other and Gulliver tried to fill his master's curiosity of where he had come from. His master thought him to be saying the thing that was not when he described his homeland and his voyage to this strange land. The master could not comprehend what a lie was and why one would do so. He said the reason for language was communication and it would be no good if individuals could not communicate what was correct and made up lies. Even though his master thought him to be saying the thing that was not with his stories about England he conveved this stories to the other Houyhnhnms to protect Gulliver out of his own greed or need to understand the Yahoo.

The Houyhnhnms has many downfalls. They thought their way of life to be the best and accepted no other. They were not capable of making their own opinions or accepting difference. Although this land of tranquility seemed to be great I believe that one would soon become bored and go crazy without their opinions or ideas about life. The Houyhnhnms were clearly closed minded robots captives of their own society.

Brandi Venable-Crawford

Almost "Utopia"

There are several different suggestions that Houyhnhnm society is less than utopic. Before directly examining Houyhnhnm society, we must first look at the conceived notion of a true utopia. The American Heritage Dictionary defines utopia as “an ideally perfect place, especially in its social, political, and moral aspects”. Perhaps the best example of a utopian society was preconceived in Plato’s Republic. In book I of the Republic, Socrates begins his conversation with Thrasymachus by telling him that they are pursuing gold or something more important than gold, they are inquiring into the best way for a person to live. Following this statement Socrates goes on to give a systematic analysis of the parts of the soul, state , and the permutations of their combinations to produce a list of the different types of lives a person can live. This puts him in a position to answer the important question. Under what conditions will all of the members of a society flourish? On the surface this question appears to be answered by the culture of the Houyhnhmns, but by further observations we begin to see how far from utopia their culture actually is. In fact, it is the extreme opposite.

In dealing with the idea of a Utopian Society, Swift seems to take a more skeptical outlook than Plato. One of his main observations of famous historical utopias is the ever-present tendency to privilege the collective group over the individual. This, of course, is the main theme present in the account of life with the Houyhnhmns’. The parallels drawn between Gulliver and the Houyhnhmns are extremely important. While the Houyhnhmns value the collective group, Gulliver is in a sense excluded from any collective society and is instead forced to live life on the opposite end of the spectrum as a wondering individual. However, we can see from this comparison, that the Houyhnhmns and Gulliver each possess conflicting view points that together would indeed go a long way in producing a utopian society.

Another factor that contributes to the Houyhnhmns less than utopic society is the practice of strict family planning. The latter dictates that the parents of two females should exchange a child with a family of two males, so that the male to female ratio is perfectly maintained. This of course fits perfectly with the idea of a cohesive unit, but it sternly contradicts the need for individuality in a utopian society. The Houyhnhmns represent an ideal for rational existence, they lead a life dedicated to sense and moderation. Despite their vehement loyalty to the senses and act of moderation, their society is missing many important characteristics a utopian society is thought to possess. By being bound by sense and moderation they are lacking any key areas of a society in which each individual can flourish. The lives of the Houyhnhmns are lacking in necessary passions, pleasures , and individual ideas. There lives also consist of little or no challenge or any chance of enrichment. This can best be described by the Houyhnhmns racial inequality among the different colors of their species.

The parallels drawn between the Yahoos and Houyhnhmns present the clearest evidence in regards to a utopian society. While the yahoos represent the act of true “emotion”, the Houyhnhmns clearly represent true “reason”. By looking at the virtues of each culture we can begin to see the implicit differences needed to create or fit the definition of a true utopia. Too much of each virtue is extreme and sadly leads each culture to a less than “utopian” society.

Swift's conduit

In a delirious sailor, Swift finds a conduit through which to channel his frustrations. This technique enables our author to speak his mind freely to the masses (in a sense) without fear of reprisal. In Swifts time the possibility of repercussions (though not quite as drastic as in earlier times) for radical thinking were still a concern for many artist, especially writers. So in an apparent attempt to vent his frustrations; Swift also submits a query to the rationality of society.

I find Gullivers opinion of Yahoos as misanthropic. It is possible to express negative opinions of society or people in a way that is not misanthropic simply by submitting references to those incorruptible aspects of society which keep us all satiated enough to continue to participate in this bizarre sideshow we call society, and those things are kindness, pure love, the arts, and inherit good we are almost all capable of. In Gulliver's conversations with the Houyhnhnm he calls his master he doesn't make even the most discrete attempt to mention any of these great aspects of our society. He offers no saving grace and in this I find the text to be misanthropic. The initial shock of seeing the Yahoos unnerves Gulliver and troubles him quite deeply. It reminds me of a person seeing themselves as others may view them, as opposed to how one may view themselves. In many cases these views seem to be in conflict and can present such a harsh realization as Gulliver seemed to experience. After which he seemed to fall into a state of denial by distancing himself from the Yahoos as best he could. This is something he did the entire time he was in the company of the Houyhnhnms. The realizations seem to have occurred more as he came to understand the Houyhnhnm way of life in which logic prevailed and corruption, greed, lust and other vices which fowl human society where non-existent. As this occurred Gulliver distanced himself from all Yahoos even more as he attempted to spend the remainder of his days with the Houyhnhnms. When he was informed this could not be; he fell into a great sadness. So he then builds a boat from the skins of Yahoos (humans). This single action here I believe could be viewed just a little misanthropic (if not sick, depraved, and just straight up creepy). This action shows how little regard he holds for the Yahoos; he views them as a means to an end. Gulliver then sets out to sea and comes upon an island. When he is finally discovered by a Portuguese ship. The captain offers him safe passage home an offer which Gulliver tries in vain to decline. On the ship he distances himself from the crew as well as the kind captain. When he finally arrives home his contempt and hatred o f Yahoos runs so deep it even causes him to despise his own family. Gulliver then explains that he finds the smell of the Yahoos to be so offensive that when he is in their company he must fill his nostrils with things such as tobacco and rue in an attempt to avoid their scent. Our character then purchases two stallions which he keeps for the purpose of conversation and company. I must then conclude by stating that I do find Swifts work to be misanthropic though not offensive only terribly pessimistic. I find an opinion offered in the story by Swift which I most certainly agree with and that is that through all our cheating and vice and other actions as well as thoughts designed in some perverse manner to satisfy some twisted thirst such as greed etc.. We only complicate our lives and hinder our progress as a society.
Steven R.

A disturbing outlook on humankind

Swift uses his character Gulliver, in his travel narrative, Gulliver’s Travels, to relay his misanthropic opinion to society. He does this through many different means through the guise of a traveler who may or may not be seen as delirious.
For example, when in conversation with the houyhnhm that he refers to as master, he describes a very exaggerated and disturbing portrayal of human society. He tends to touch solely on the many vices of mankind, such as lust, greed, and manipulation. When asked to explain to his master the meaning of law, Gulliver talks about how lawyers are liars whose only concern is money and hurting other people. He states that the purpose of a judicial court is only to inappropriately rule in favor of the wrong party even if they are bribed to rule in favor of the right one. This outlook provides the reader with a vivid taste of how Gulliver dislikes the ways of his society.
Furthermore, Gulliver’s absolute distaste for the Yahoos on the island provides an even stouter portrayal of Swift’s misanthropy. At first meeting with the creatures, Gulliver is so disgusted by them he doesn’t even recognize that they are human. Later in the narrative, he is so terrified of being compared with them that he leaves his clothing on lest his master should notice the similarities between the yahoos and him. Once he becomes more familiar with the ways of the yahoos, he notices how their vices are much like the vices of the European yahoos. This discovery appalls him and becomes the basis of his hatred for all of mankind.
Finally, the most vivid depiction of Swift’s misanthropy is given with Gulliver is rescued by the Portuguese travelers and brought back to his home. When he first spots the ship headed toward the island he is stranded on, he decides he would rather “trust [himself] among the barbarians, than live with European yahoos” (Swift 191). After being forced onto the ship, he makes many vain attempts to escape, even trying to throw himself off of the boat just to get away from these creatures that he despises. Even when he is offered generosities from the ship’s captain, Pedro de Mendez, such as clothing, food, and a clean bed, he is revolted by the smell of yahoos, and refuses anything unless he washes it himself or lets it air out for at least twenty-four hours. Also, when he gets back to England and back to his family, he is so sickened by his wife and children, especially when she comes up to kiss him, that he falls into a swoon and thereafter, refuses to dine, sleep, or even talk with them.
Swift uses this fantastic narrative as a guise to distribute his own political opinion to the country, exaggerating the vices of man through a delusional traveler. The reader can see the severe distaste that Swift has for his fellow beings that harbors almost to the point of hatred. Therefore my answer is yes; Gulliver’s Travels was absolutely a misanthropic tale.

Misanthropy Prevails...

To portray misanthropy is to portray hatred for, and to despise mankind. The question of whether Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels is a misanthropic work cannot be answered with a single explanation. Readers take very different positions on that vexing question. By reading the text, one is not fully capable of understanding, or knowing, where Swift would place humanity on the scale between Houyhnhnm and Yahoo. “At the heart of Gulliver’s Travels lies the question, What does it mean to be a human being?” (Harter 147).

On Gulliver’s first voyage, he is shipwrecked on the shores of the Lilliputians. His second voyage lands Gulliver among the Brobdingnagians, giants whose blunt speech and physical grossness disgust him. Gulliver claims that Brobdingnagian warts and pimples appear the size of boulders. The third voyage is a satire upon mock scientists at the Grand Academy of Lagado. Gulliver’s final voyage, his most troubling voyage, takes him to the country to the Houyhnhnms. The Houyhnhnms are supremely rational horses; they are accompanied by their nasty-tempered draft-animals, the human-looking Yahoos. Yahoos initially frighten all other creatures in their vicinity. Gulliver describes Yahoos as lazy, filthy, lustful, greedy, and aggressive. “They are unmistakably degenerate versions of human beings, though just how corrupted Swift intended them to seem is not clear” (145). Some readers believe that the Yahoos are a reflection of Swift’s own hatred of people. On the other hand, the Houyhnhnms are the rigid order of their society. Gulliver, always easily impressed, is totally won to the horses’ way of life, and desperately disassociates himself from the Yahoos. “His voice takes on a whinnying notes and his gait is a modified trot, in imitation of his idols” (145). The former behavior clearly portrays a somewhat misanthropic act on Gulliver’s part. He views the Yahoos, the organisms that relate the closest to human form, as barbaric and filthy. Gulliver states that their “shape was very singular, and deformed…” Whereas, the Houyhnhnms, the horses, became Gulliver’s friends, as well as his teachers. The Houyhnhnms claim Yahoos lack reason and the ability to learn. They scratch, bite, and throw excrement at their enemies. Such as it is with human nature, “Yahoo females flirt with males with whom they have no intention of mating…one Yahoo acts as a go-between when two others are involved in such a dispute and makes off with the treasure himself, much like a lawyer” (145).

Although there is controversy concerning Swift’s meaning of humanity, personally, I believe that Gulliver’s Travels is a misanthropic work. Throughout his entire fourth voyage, Gulliver degrades the Yahoos, as well as their way of life. At the end of the story, Gulliver sails off in a boat made up of miscellaneous Yahoo skins. “Later, he is disgusted by the very sight of the generous captain who rescues him, and once back home he is only by degrees able to bear the company of his own family, preferring to be with his carriage horses” (145). Gulliver portrays mankind as barbaric and uneducated. He clearly favors his barnyard friends to humanity.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Gulliver's Travels, misanthropic or not?

In Gulliver’s Travels, there seems to be a constantly reoccurring aspect. Chiefly, Gulliver persistently tries to distance himself from the Yahoos. In a way, his behavior could be counted as merely his survival instincts taking control of his actions. However, even after Gulliver is accepted by the Houyhnhnms, he continues in his denial of being related to the Yahoos.

The question must now be asked, why did Gulliver so adamantly refuse the existence of any relationship whatsoever with the Yahoos? It could be in part due to the utter disgust which Gulliver felt when he looked upon a Yahoo and saw himself and his fellow Europeans in the Yahoo’s eyes. He, in many ways, represents mankind by his unwillingness to accept the truth. Instead, he seeks to hide his true identity. Take for instance the matter of his clothing. He seeks to mask his humanly form so that there will be less resemblance between himself and the Yahoos. However, even after he is found out by a servant, he succeeds in corrupting his master by convincing him to conceal his form and maintain a lie. This in itself illustrates the infectious nature of falsehood and deception. Nevertheless, later on in his narrative, he proclaims to have “learned from his [the master horse] example an utter detestation of all falsehood or disguise; and truth appeared so amiable to me, that I determined upon sacrificing every thing to it”.

However, if truth “appeared so amiable” to him, why was he causing all his relatives back in Europe to go through unnecessary pain by believing the lie that he was dead? Should he not have sought a way to return and forgo them all the undo hardship they were going through? Once again, the flaw which is present in all men rears its ugly head, the flaw of selfishness overrides his good intent. From this view point, Gulliver’s Travels can be seen as misanthropic because of the common reoccurrence of illustrations describing the depravity of mankind.

In so many cases in our world, a man becomes angry because he sees his flaws in the countenance of those who surround him. This happens because he subconsciously recognizes where he fails and he reacts by criticizing these same flaw which he sees in others. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons that Gulliver tries to separate himself from the Yahoos. Some of the problems he sees include the comical behavior they exhibit when two of them have found a stone which possessive precious value in their eyes. It is through their continuous arguing that another Yahoo is able to take the stone without their knowledge. This is as Gulliver perceives a representation of the legal system which we employ. While Swift’s comparison may be a little exaggerated, he skillfully shows how Gulliver is not necessarily upset by the Yahoos behavior, but by the fact that he perceives those same behaviors and tendencies in himself.

Therefore, the question of whether Swift’s work is misanthropic or not should be answered with a certain degree of caution involved. Since it is impossible to fully ascertain Swift’s true motive for writing Gulliver’s Travels, it is likewise impossible to make an absolute judgment on his motives. One could certainly say that Gulliver’s Travels is definitely criticizing mankind and his short comings, but as to what extent the criticism goes cannot be know for sure.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Prejudice and the Tao

I find Jaucort's explanation of prejudices to be rather accurate. In his writing he describes prejudice as being peoples clouded judgments and perceptions of the world around us to be tainted with preconceived notions and pious opinions. I agree with the idea that the author is trying to convey. However this statement and explanation of prejudice is nothing new, for it has existed in eastern philosophy for thousands of years. For example Taoism; Lao Tzu explains the way or the dao (Tao as we know it) in a similar fashion. For one to reach a pure state of mind we must eliminate all our biased opinions and misconceptions. For these ideas cloud our judgment, this is why meditation is still the most effective way to make a decision. In a true state of meditation one may empty their own mind and work on a blank sheet of paper so to speak. Making a decision without meditating on in is like trying to solve an equation on a clustered sheet of paper covered in random notes, this is simply not effective. This part of the basis of bushido or the way of the warrior. This does not pertain only to martial arts but to life in a holistic approach. A wise mane once said; "The usefulness of a cup is its emptiness.". This means if a mind is full to the brim with biased opinions then how may it be allowed to grow? It cannot. Another wise man named Jesus Christ once said "Have the mind of a child.". This can be interpreted many ways, but when an adult has a moral dilemma sometimes the easiest way to make an honest decision is to ask a child, for their judgment is not as clouded as ours and they do not often lie to themselves as we as adults do so frequently. Jaucort explains prejudice as an infectious disease which clouds the judgment. He then explains how it operates several ways my favorite is where he states; "A man sees a fact of nature, attributes it to a certain cause because he prefers to err rather than to doubt; in vain does experience the falsehood of his conjectures, the first opinion prevails.". I agree with the author in that the only way for true advancement is to tear down the walls of prejudices and view the world with an open mind, and to dispose of our egocentric views this is the dao, so to speak and our only true chance at truth.
Steven Robbins

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Thursday, January 19, 2006

In Jaucourt's "Invention," he does not believe that only geniuses are inventors and he goes on to prove this point throughout his article. Before reading Jaucourt's article, I had never given any thought to the evolution of invention. It is unfortunate that the "inventors" or "discoverers" went without proper recognition for their creation; however, are they the ones who really deserve the honor? It's not fair to say that Gutenberg invented the printing press when according to Jaucourt, "Guttenberg only invented movable characters, carved in relief on wood and on metal." What about Schofer "...who improved this invention and found the secret of casting these characters?" Old theories become new theories through time. That is what Jaucort meant when he said, "we owe inventions to time."
The inventions Jaucourt speaks of such as the printing press, windmill, compass, spectacles, paper, etc. opened wider horizons and beautified and enlightened the world according to Jaucourt. These are all examples of how inventions of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries have been perfected over time. Inventions aren't always thought up, they form from pure chance. Over the years we have been able to combine research and existing inventions. The inventions we know today in our "technologically advanced society" will only continue evolve and become perfected. In twenty years, who knows what type of inventive contributions will have been made. As Jaucourt said, "Inventions are the children of time. Industriousness will only speed the delivery of many new and unseen innovations." Society has a lot to look forward to according to Jaucort, since time will only provoke the next invention.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Jaucous's Prejudice

I found this passage about “public, or conventional prejudices” to be especially interesting. Here Jaucous is saying that all people perceive things differently. Also, the meaning of the very words we use to express those perceptions differs for each individual. In this way we are all prejudice because we believe our understand of something to be correct, even though it differs from everyone else’s understanding. Jaucous uses fortune, virtue, and truth as examples of words with variable meanings. I can think of many others such as love, respect , and freedom. But are these not the same words and ideas that make language, and life, interesting as well as entertaining? I agree that when it comes to our languages, everything is subjective; we will never completely understand each other. I disagree with Jaucous when he suggests that we should do away with these complex ideas. At the end of the passage he states “We must wait until nature has formed all minds in same mold.” Without these words and ideas we would have no use for books or reading. We would already know exactly what someone else was thinking. Jaucuous may wish that everyone could think the same way, but I personally am grateful for the ability to think for myself, even if it means misunderstanding others.

It is especially interesting that Jaucous makes this point in his encyclopedia. If, as he says, “definitions convey neither the true idea of things nor the proper way of conceiving them,” then what is the point of trying to define things in an encyclopedia? There is this endless cycle of trying to explain ourselves and being misunderstood. If he thinks this is a bad thing, why not just quit trying?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

A Better Mouse Trap
By: Jessica Hite
An invention started years ago with one person’s idea. Maybe they decided they
needed a special tool for a certain project. These people were not usually geniuses.
Jaucourt tells us the first inventions comes from the more ‘’uncivilized’’ countries and
they have since then been improved for perfection.
He also enlightens us to how time must elapse before an object can become
successful. As for example; the windmill had to wait for geometry before it could
function. The telescope needed time elapse before it became profected. The idea came
from the thought of a rough diomond. Then the diamond was cut and as time allowed,
practice was the key to a successful cut stone.
Similar ideas such as glasses for wearing and mirrors for looking into were being
invented around the same century. Maybe this suggests that natural instinct of
humans evolving drove the thoughts of need for an object. The more modern we
become the more modern our projects will become.
We will keep improving the vary things that work successfully now, but may not be to
our satisfaction as time passes. Inventions all seemed to start ‘’rough cut’’ and
then people added to them. For example, Jaucourt talks about how a compass
grew from a cork and needle in the water to an instrument involving mathematics to
measure the degrees. This was not invented by one person and one person should not
get all the credit (that goes for all inventions perfected over centuries). Time is the tool
that helped put all the necessary minds and mechanics from that time period to
perfect an object like this.The ‘’old theories’’ mentioned in the article will title our
century in many years to come. Time will always allow for a ‘’better mouse trap’’.

Prejudice without God

Prejudice without God
When reading the article on Prejudice I really could not relate. I myself am a strong believer in God, fate, and faith. Jaucourt is relying on man made facts but who then made man. If we evolved who created the chimpanzee we evolved from. When you have nothing positive or a higher power to look up to it’s difficult to give concrete evidence on the how, when and where. How can we have prejudice when there is no belief in a higher and greater power of God.
The mind I see as being a well crafted gift from God. The mind goes astray in prejudice due to the fact that we as sinful beings allow the thought of another power to over power us and our actions. We are giving freedom of chose by God himself. Prejudice is what we view it as it can be a mirror where we see monsters if we allow the devil to become the person who holds the power.
God is a man of no errors. Things happen because of his will and purpose not because it is a thousand popular error as Jancourt states. A passneger who is trapped and that ask to be saved, can be but only by the grace of God. It is not because he makes a plea bargain with God. It is because God has a plan for that particular individual and he sees fit to leave that person upon this earth to complete their purpose. No man can say or present a false plea or barbarous because God knows the sincerity of the person’s plea.
We as people understand and confront that fact that there is a true and living God, Jancourt’s view on prejudice can be null and void. The world is made of different creatures with different views. Yes Jancourt had a point when he said that all is uniform in the course of nature. He fail to see that it is not the divine plan on but of God. God has his own personal of creating plans. Nature and humans act only because of the almighty God.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Time Changes All

Throughout the years inventions have often been credited to one person: the inventor. I must admit that I have always held the same view, until I read “Invention” by Jaucourt. He put things into a new perspective that I never would have seen before. He focuses on time because he realized how important it is when something new is invented. One person may truly invent something new, but it is time that perfects that. Inventions are not about the genius behind the invention, it is about time and how different people shape the invention throughout the years. Each person contributes their own ideas, adding something that someone else may not have seen. Time is the key factor in how inventions are shaped and changed.
Jaucourt realized that anything new draws upon things that have existed for years. Windmills were around for years, but were never truly perfected until geometry was applied to it. Often times “new” inventions are just a new way of putting together old concepts. The wheel, for example, was invented centuries ago, but it is still being perfected. As time continues, new people think of new ways to contribute, improving the invention, whatever it may be. There are numerous other examples of inventions that have been perfected throughout the years. The clock is also an example of this. The very first watch was invented around 613 and it has changed drastically since then. Even today inventions are added to and taken from, shaping them and changing them. Time changes all things, and inventions are no exception.

Stephanie Bosarge

Time is of the Essence

Since our beginnings mankind has been making discoveries. Whether or not these discoveries improve our lives depends on how society chooses to utilize them. Our ability to discover enables us to create inventions that lessen the effort and amount of time we put into our daily tasks. Therefore inventions better our human existence by making life easier. One cannot help but wonder why we have this beneficial ability or what types of circumstances allow us to invent and make discoveries. Does the key to inventing lie in an individual’s intelligence over others or is it simply due to timing? Jaucourt presents various aspects of this question in the article “Invention,” which elaborates in great depth about the crucial relationship time has with human inventions.

The article covers a plethora of inventions spanning from the printing press and compass to the earliest forms of paper and the telescope. Jaucourt makes connections throughout the article, which stress that time has much more to do with the possibility of inventions that intellect. Humans are always adapting to changes in their environment and make inventions in order to aid them in this process. Most ideas are old ones in theory and humans use them as building blocks to make inventions. Anywhere from the arts to the sciences, other discoveries have influenced inventors. In simplest terms, the procedure of inventing needs to have a series of events that lead to the over all discovery of something new rather than the new ideas forming out of nowhere. An example of our influence by others can be found in the invention of the windmill. This particular invention would not have existed with out theory of compound movement

Jaucourt states, “We owe inventions to time…” but also relates that they do form from pure chance or lucky. He focuses on time as being the cause of inventions over the possibility of generous due to the fact that it is more blatantly evident if we look at history. Everything develops as a chain of events, which couldn’t form without it’s prior links

Jaucourt's Encyclopedie (Prejudice)

According to Jaucourt's Encyclopedie prejudice is a misguided perception and wrong judgment of what is the true nature of things. It is a fruit of ignorance that is planted that is planted and grows to take the mind and its perceptions prisoner. It impedes understanding and shrouds the wisdom of offspring. Prejudice comes in many forms and may be birthed from many sources. Spreading like an epidemic infecting the minds of youth, it is taught in schools and religions. Even as it defies common sense and logic it is slothfully accepted. Its only opposition is maturity, reason, and men that dare to think differently than there peers. Mankind is easily trapped in its deception, for his mind constructs his own universe that he is the center of. Only allowing thoughts to that appeal to his vanity. Passing judgment carelessly and without to much contemplation, man concludes quickly and irresponsibly. Once prejudice is conceived it operates through many different means. It can use habit, customs, traditions, idol minds, propaganda, classical axioms, and human pride. From there it grows into superstition, corrupt perception, and marred facts. At this point it scares the minds of men and it may never die. Prejudice is much easier to prevent than to contain or extinguish. To prevent it from ever starting people must look at the world thorough pure eyes. They must not give in to these preconceived notions and judge irresponsibly. Everyone must inspire to think different and fine their own truths. Their search for truth must denounce ignorance and abstain lazy acceptance of untested ideas.

Importance of Time

In his article “Invention” from the Encyclopedie of Diderot & d’Alembert, Jacourt stresses the importance of time because firstly he is writing about the inventions, not the inventors. He does mention the inventors but this article is about documenting and commemorating these inventions, not praising one person or peoples’ genius. Although he does not praise any inventors, he does give them the credit of inventing or improving an invention.

Basically his argument is that nature decides who and when someone will discover or invent. He says on the third page, “those men who were fortunate enough to be born at the right time, had a perfect knowledge of mechanics and have taken advantage of the sketchy simplicity of early inventions; … they brought them to the degree of perfection where we see them today.” All men have common sense but it takes the right situation, or time to see the answer to the dilemma, and as a result, inventions or modifications of inventions come about.

I am not sure if it is intentional but Jacourt is pushing the all-men-are-created-equal idea. Any person is capable of inventing or contributing to an invention, but only if time permits. Whatever the reason, something is keeping them from seeing the obvious solution. Because that is all an invention is: a solution that could not be seen before. And when it is thought of, it is just like that missing puzzle piece, it fits perfectly.

-Mihee Jones

Jaucourt's Invention

In Encyclopédie, Jaucourt writes the first encyclopedia article on the meaning of “Invention”. Interestingly, though, it does not highlight great inventors. It does not even stress the history or circumstances of most of the greatest inventions of the era. Instead, Jaucourt’s article seems to focus on time not genius. He declares, “ We owe inventions to time, pure chance…” He further relates that the inventions “we possess today…were not found in the state in which we see them now”. Rather, Jaucourt suggests that they were “in rough form or in parts” and, over time, evolved into the invaluable inventions around us.

Yet, Jaucourt does not imply that inventions are strictly the result of time and chance. Rather, they are also the product of “mechanical genius”. According to Jaucourt, this “mechanical genius” or “instinct” is what “nature has endowed some men, independently from philosophy”. Thus, the writer seems to infer that inventions often came neither from the “wits in polite society nor from speculative philosophers”, but from necessity. Hence, man instinctively creates what he needs to survive.

Nonetheless, the perfection of these inventions takes time. As an example, Jaucourt relates, “ Guttenberg only invented moveable characters, carved in relief on wood and on metal. It was Schofer who improved this invention and found the secret of casting these characters.” Clearly, the vast advancement in printing science from Guttenberg’s era to the 21st Century’s Computer Age helps to corroborate Jaucourt’s position that time and evolution is the ultimate source of invention. Still, human “industriousness” is needed to search out matter in its raw and imperfect form and turn it into perfection. That is why Jaucourt writes of the “treasures” earth has provided, “let us always be prepared to take advantage of them” because, as this article repeatedly highlights, it is the only way that inventions “the children of time” can be created.