Humans and Animals

Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels suggests that we would be happier if we were like the Houyhnhnms. He uses satiric methods to show reasoning and language between the Houyhnhnms and the Yahoos. Houyhnhnms were “endowed by nature with a general disposition to all virtues, and have no conceptions or ideas of what is evil in a rational creature, so their grand maxim is, to cultivate reason, and to be wholly governed by it” (248). The Houyhnhnms live on an island and this kind of isolation from the rest of society helped form their society. And in their society, they use reasoning to evolve themselves. Gulliver states that “I know not whether it may be worth observing, that the Houyhnhnms have no word in their language to express anything that is evil, except what they borrow from the deformities or ill qualities of the Yahoos” (256). In the novel, when Gulliver was trying to explain humans to the Master Horse, he had a difficult time trying to convey us in their language because they cannot grasp the understanding of something their society does not face. He said that there is “no word in their language” which shows that they are all alike without any individuality.

The way the Yahoos are constantly being compared to Houyhnhnms shows how much one group is favored over the other. Gulliver picking a group of horses over a group of filthy, human-like beings shows how much Yahoos are disliked. He viewed the Yahoos as others who “hate one another, more than they did any different species of animals” while he saw the Houyhnhnms as “admirable” (241). Yahoos depict mankind degenerate while the Houyhnhnms have a rational approach to fixing humanity. They lost all language and showed how much the human-like animals are like us. Of course we would expect Gulliver to choose the Houyhnhnms for their ability of reasoning. In chapter IV of part IV, Gulliver said that the Houyhnhnms were “the most generous and comely animals we had; that they excelled in strength and swiftness” (222). His need for a utopia causes him to see the Yahoos in a way that he sees humans, like himself.

Ever since he visited the Land of the Houyhnhnms, his way of viewing humans changed. The Houyhnhnms showed him a society of enlightenment.

-Naomi Van


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