LitLink

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

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.”

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