Language: An Abandoned Blessing

Society is and has always been, so long as we remain human, mortal beings with emotion, imperfect and yet ever so synchronized. It bends and twists accordingly with the ideals of the present mindsets of the time, reflecting upon its flaws and still keeping together the sanctuary of human civilization, or at least it feels as if it seems controlled within a world of random, unjust natural and unnatural occurrences. Then criticism is offered to this society, as it has always been, and for the moment, most would comfortably reject those ideals and sit in their unchanging paradise like cogs in a machine. Gulliver’s Travels then, presents here something so absurd it makes sense, something one cannot merely dismiss. What if, what if – horses, intelligent horses, lived a more close-knit society, a more philosophically pleasing lifestyle, a more just view of an individual’s purpose? It’s comedic to say, but Swift uses that attention and proves that this may very well be possible (the form of society, that is). Then one must face certain insecurities and doubts of the very society that holds us together and sane, and there’s no better way to do it than with a bunch of horses.

Two things in unison enlighten the reader of natural human failures of communication, providing an ideal and the unfortunate manipulation of language to favor unjust motives. The Houyhnhnms are a species eager to communicate, and have shown signs in attempts to do so even with the most brutish creatures. The Yahoos, as described in Chapter 3 of the 4th part, are unteachable and completely savage, but in their description the Houyhnhnms have shown that there have indeed been attempts to communicate, their astonishment at Gulliver’s intelligence can only be in reference to a struggle previously ensued with the Yahoos. In short, this shows that despite the appearance of the Yahoos, the Houyhnhnms have definitely attempted to communicate, and more so, they seem to be more welcoming to them regardless than say a certain other “civilized” society that instead chose to butcher the native peoples. It likewise shows the importance of communicate to the Houyhnhnms, they are eager to do so thoroughly and clearly, which brings the following point established in Chapter 4 of the same part of the book, when Gulliver introduces the concept of lying, which only confuses the Houyhnhnms, something “worse than Ignorance” (221).

With these two key ideas taken into account, one can assume the sheer value of fair, even communication for the Houyhnhnms, where something even as trivial as lying is something to be condemned and useless. Looking further, it jabs at the fact that humans can do many things with language, and yet we choose not to do so. People ignore each other, fail to pick up on the concept of empathy, lie without remorse, all of which have become norms in just about every first world society in some aspect or another. Things can be settled with fair discussion, understanding can bond peoples despite major differences, it can spark and further advance human ideologies and theories, instead we may as well be the Yahoos. Though we are capable of communicating, we essentially butcher the lines of communication, assuming things of each other, casting judgement and ignoring the other’s words. When one thinks truly of the power of language, one realizes that so many things within society today are horribly unnecessary, with simply applying the use of empathy and fair communication. Instead, apathy, inequality, deception, and dehumanization is birthed where clear communication dies, and unfortunately the norm set is that it seems to be completely fine to do so, to disconnect and forget the relationships we form as if they meant nothing, to spew hatred upon a differing group for merely having differing ideas, where lying and twisting the truth to achieve a motive is much more important than clear representation of oneself. It would be a beautiful world, one where people actually cared to listen to each other completely despite disagreement, where conflict is settled in educated courts, where our fellow beings are treated equally with respect, all on the basis and appreciation of communication. It seems like an inflated subject, ultimately coming from a bunch of horses, but think of it: as humans, as intellectual beings capable of communication, so many events of misunderstanding occur, so many instances of dehumanization allow violence and apathy to strike. If we had the motivation to seek to communicate more, rather than to isolate ourselves, if we opened up to speak with even people we perceived as “savage”, we would learn to appreciate the differences more. Or one could laugh, muttering “what silly horse people”, close the book and forget. We can continue to lie, cut people off without a second thought, to judge those whom we have not understood, just like a Yahoo would.

-William Fernandez


One thought on “Language: An Abandoned Blessing

  1. The main idea is, “What if, what if – horses, intelligent horses, lived a more close-knit society, a more philosophically pleasing lifestyle, a more just view of an individual’s purpose?” Your post raises an interesting question followed by an amazing, detailed explanation of your thoughts. There seems to be no need for re-interpretation of the text nor any need to elaborate on anything. Job well done!

    Extra Credit 15/25/4


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