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

Monday, January 23, 2006

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.


Blogger Jeremiah Newell said...

Caroline, excellent response to the question of Gulliver's Travel being a misanthropic work. I liked how you defined misanthropy first.That definition helped to put your whole argument into context. Although, I approached the topic from a different angle citing Swift's remarks written to another. I would agree that your interpretation is certainly plausible. Keep up the good work!

7:21 AM  

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