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

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.


Blogger Danielle Bruhl said...

I think you developed and supported your argument well. You used good examples from the story to support your argument explaining why the Houyhnhnms were not a utopian society. I agree with you concerning today's society and its hypocritical tendencies. I think Swift's work definitely transcends time and is very relevant to issues within society today.

6:08 PM  

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