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

Monday, January 23, 2006

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.


Blogger Kimberly said...

I was pleased to see that you stated your personal opinion on each situation you were describing. It is much more interesting to read a writer's opinion every now and then, as opposed to reading several quotes with no supporting detail. I think you answered the question very well; and I do happen to agree with you about this piece of writing being a misanthropic work.

10:18 PM  

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