Houyhnhnm’s Way of Life vs the European Yahoo’s Way of Life

In the beginning, it seems that Swift is making the point that humans would be happier if they lived similarly to the Houyhnhmns. This is evident in the part 4 when Gulliver finds himself wanting to stay with the horses of Houyhnhmns and follow their way of life rather than return to the European Yahoos. In chapter 7, Gulliver tells his horse master that he would like to stay and live with the horses rather than return home. When the Houyhnhmns explain to him and show him what Yahoos are, he is appalled by them. He asks the horses to stop calling him a  Yahoo as he does not want to be affiliated with those disgusting and simple creatures. Even when he is forced to go back home, he can’t help but think of the Europeans as Yahoos and is appalled by his own family. He buys two horses which he would spend four hours talking to for two years before accepting the fact that there was no returning to Houyhnhmnland.

In Houyhnhmnland, Gulliver is in a limbo between the Houyhnhmns and Yahoos because he is neither intelligent like the horses nor primitive as the Yahoos. He tries to assimilate to the Houyhnhm way of life, but he can only partially pretend to be as rational and sensible as them for in the end he is still more Yahoo than horse. When he returns home he is fully enthralled into believing that the Houyhnhmn way of life was the proper way o life that he went mad for a while and saw his family as primitive and disgusting. In my opinion, if Gulliver was truly rational as the horses, then he wouldn’t let his emotions get the better of him and go mad as a Yahoo would.

The attractive features of the Houyhnhmn way of life is their friendship, benevolence, and the way they are concerned more with the well being of the group rather than the individual. Everything they do is done with solid reasoning behind it, such as choosing a mate. They choose the best suited mate to promote the advancement of their race. But I feel that is where Swift satires the Houyhnhmn way of life. Throughout all of Gulliver’s four voyages,  Swift has satirized all the societies Gulliver has encountered and Houyhnhmnland is no exception. In the first three voyages we view the societies with as Gulliver does, but in the fourth voyage we are forced to examine the society and Gulliver as well. This is where there’s a shift in the method of satire that Swift uses. I believe that the Houyhnhmn lifestyle is Gulliver’s ideal, but that life style is too dull, boring, monotone. The Houyhnhmns are deprived of any real meaning of life, they are bred to advance the population, they are driven by rational not by emotions. They live a simple life style but at a cost; they are not able to mate for the reason of love, but in order to advance their population. Imagine marrying someone because the offspring you and that person would advance the species. Sure at first it sounds great, “Like yeah my children will promote the population”, until you realize that you’re marrying and having a kid with someone you don’t love, have nothing in common with, and have different ways of parenting. Their way of life is basically planned out from the day they are born. They are deprived of emotions, with the exception of feeling disgust, and complexity, which is what makes life worth living. All the vices, selfishness, love, hate, and all the other emotions are what make human life rich. If everything becomes practical and predictable, it then becomes boring and you just go through the motions not really experiencing anything new. You are no longer that special individual ,”snowflake”, but just another horse working the same way as the others. The Houyhnhmns are happy because that lifestyle suits them specifically, but it is not the lifestyle for humans. A good example would be the way Gulliver acted when he came back to his own civilization from Houyhnhmnland. He was shown kindness by Don Pedro, but Gulliver sees him as an animal/beast becasue he still is in the mindset of the horses. Gulliver is not happy in Europe even though he is living in the manner of the horses, because that lifestyle was not meant for him nor humans in general. Humans are complex creatures that were not meant to live as the Houyhnhmns.

– Andres Quezada


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