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

Friday, March 17, 2006

Is Gulliver’s Travels a misanthropic work?

Just for clarification, misanthrope is defined as “a hater of humanity.” Is Gulliver’s Travels a work in which Gulliver hates humanity? I think so, yes. Of the many things that support this, I think that Gulliver’s first impressions speak the loudest, and what he unconsciously says.

“I continued at home with my wife and children … in a very happy condition…” says Gulliver at the beginning of part 4. Yet when he returns from the Houyhnhnms he says “…my wife took me in her arms, and kissed me; at which, having not been used to the touch of that odious animal for so many years, I fell in a swoon for almost an hour.” Clearly his reaction shows his hatred, not only for Yahoos but his own wife, a human. He goes on to describe how he couldn’t tolerate his family’s smell and touch. He even buys horses with the first money he comes across and says their smell is comforting.

When Gulliver first comes across Yahoos he says “Their shape was very singular, and deformed, which a little discomposed me…” When I looked up discomposed in the dictionary, it said “to disrupt the composure of.” It’s odd that he couldn’t immediately identify his own species. And that the mere image of them upset him. This I think is excellent support that he hates humanity. The funny thing to me is this starts before he even encounters the Houyhnhnms. He goes on to describe the Yahoos as animals, and completely doesn’t make the connection between them and humans. Yet when Gulliver first comes across a Houyhnhnm, his description is with admiration and has peacefulness to it. He says, “… at last I took the boldness to reach my hands towards his neck … but this animal… shook his head, and bent his brows, softly raising up his right fore-foot to remove my hand.” I think he is portraying this horse as a sort of noble or gentleman by the use of the word softly.

Throughout the entire story, Gulliver wishes to separate himself from the Yahoos in everyway. For example, he won’t undress until he is sure that all the Houyhnhnms are no longer awake. When he attends his master at dinner and social events, he is referred to as a Yahoo which he doesn’t like at all. At one point a female Yahoo tries to mate with him, and it becomes clear to the Houyhnhnms that he is indeed a Yahoo. I believe his master refers to his as his “gentle Yahoo.”

Also Gulliver puts the Houyhnhnms on such a pedestal that he doesn’t even want to leave their land when he is told he must. When he returns to England, he is told that he trots like a horse and that he sounds like a horse. Even in his concluding chapter, he is constantly referring to them. He is so desperate to be apart of their ideal society that he shuns his family, customs, and England. He continues to refer to all of human society as Yahoos even after his return.

In conclusion I think that this part of this work is definitely a misanthropic work, in every way possible. Gulliver is completely convinced that the Houyhnhnms are superior to all Yahoos.

-Mihee Jones


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