The Swift Way

I think Swift is utilizing the Houyhnhnms not to present the idea that society is better off if we think and behave like them, but presenting the notion the real ‘yahoos’ are the ones that care so much about unsubstantial things. In every story so far, Gulliver has always attempted to learn the language of the land and learn the customs but has wanted to leave but now in a land of horses he wants to stay. These horses live in a society where they don’t have any word or natural comprehension of what society would equate with ‘sin’ which seems pleasant enough to l

Swift demonstrates that he wants people to neither be the yahoos or the Houyhnhnms when Gulliver states “But I must freely confess, that the many virtues of those quadrupeds placed in opposite View to human Corruptions, had so far opened my eyes and enlarged my Understanding, that I began to view the Actions and Passions of Man in a very different Light, and to think the Honour of my own Kind not worth managing; which, besides, it was impossible for me to do before a person of so acute Judgment as my Master, who daily convinced me of a thousand faults in my self, whereof I had not the least perception before, and which among us would never be numbered even among human Infirmities, I had likewise learned from his Example an utter Detestation of all Falsehood or Disguise; and Truth appeared so amiable to me, that I determined upon sacrificing everything to it.” (swift 237).

Gulliver has finally chosen a race of horses over his family essentially and England, but this is done by Swift to not encourage happiness through a Houyhnhnms type of lifestyle, but to demonstrate the error of prejudice over all types of the lifestyles presented throughout the novel. Here Gulliver who has not favored the previous travels witch involved different versions of people such as the giants or the miniature people, and instead choose horse (which he still first believed to be magician humans). Gulliver who was adequately emerging himself into a society and culture he clearly as stated above was in full support of, was kicked out because his native culture was seen to be too similar to the ‘yahoos’ especially his physical appearance, and kicked out. No matter which culture he went to Gulliver was never able to fit in and I think the larger message that could also be presented is that the current societies at the time that this was written made it impossible for anyone to fit in. In England you had all these scholars and authors competing for knowledge and presenting it but if you didn’t fit the mold you were exiled from society in a way or found yourself wanting to leave to somewhere better much like Gulliver. This quote also demonstrates the possible theme of the error in Human Understanding. Gulliver has fallen in love with a society that has no regard for the individual or feelings, their interchangeable nature at times seems almost scary. They have lost their sense of self at the cost of providing for the over all good. Through this theme and juxtaposition of firstly Gulliver’s admiration for the Houyhnhnms and then his forced exile from their society due to miniscule similarities to Yahoos, demonstrates the error of each type of extreme society and by placing values too much value into something can be harmful.

-Haley H.

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One thought on “The Swift Way

  1. In your post, you present the idea that Swift places a comparison between two different societies, but the one that stands out the most corrupted are the Yahoos. You also present this idea that knowledge is subjective in each state which Swift seems to be addressing towards the English Europeans.

    Enrique Ramos
    Extra Credit 4/17/17

    Like

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