They really aren’t that great

Although the Houyhnhnm appear to be rational creatures, I don’t think the world would be better places if it could think and behave the way Houyhnhms do because it is to similar to the way in which humans have taught and behaved in the past. For instance, when Gulliver was learning the language of the Houyhnhnms he was treated as piece to look at because many were “convinced that [he] must be a Yahoo, but [his] teachableness, civility, and cleanliness astonished him; which were qualities altogether opposite to those animals”. The dichotomy between Houyhnhnm and Yahoo is similar to the hierarchal structure of races. The Houyhnhms believe themselves to be better beings than the Yahoos because the Yahoo’s way of living does not coincide with the Houyhnhnms way of life. Also, Gulliver was to refer the Houyhnhnm who take care of him as “master”, which thus created a master and slave relationship between the two. No matter how much Gulliver were to learn the language and communicate with the Houyhnhnm efficiently, Gulliver was still going to be viewed less than due to the fact that he is to call his teacher, “master”. He would never be seen as an intellectual equal of any sort, always as a less than outsider. At times, it seemed that Gulliver was less than the slaves because the slaves would find him so intriguing as well and enjoyed teaching him the things he did not know.

Nancy Sanchez

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A life without connection

Swift suggests that human kind would be happier if we lived liked Houyhnhnms do, however, I don’t think we would. Houyhnhnms live a very safe life and don’t take any risks. They are conformed to what they have and don’t have the drive or motivation for anything more. Living a safe live does not necessarily mean you are living. Life is all about taking risks and finding something you love that gives you motivation to live and try new things. The way Houyhnhnms choose their mates goes to show that they do not seek an emotional connection, but rather features that would benefit their offspring.  Human kind would definitely be safer, but that doesn’t mean we would be happier. Although Houyhnhnms have interesting and good qualities to them, like the way they put others needs in front of theirs, they still have no one to share their life with in a deep and emotional connection.

-Natalia Alvarado

War, It happens

As Swift suggests “humankind would be happier if it could think and behave the way the Houyhnhnms do” I would havento disagree with this idea.

In part four chapter five on pg. 228, Gulliver has spent a good amount of time describing War to the Master Horse, and “I was going on to more Particulars, when my Master Commanded me Silence. He said, Whoever understood the Nature of Yahoos might easily believe it possible for so vile an animal, to be capable of every Action I had named, if their Strength and Cunning equaled their Malice. But as my Discourse had increased his Abhorrence of the whole species, so he found it gave him a Disturbance in his Mind, to which he was wholly  a Stranger before.”

Shortly after Gulliver smiles at Master Horse’s ignorance, but it is very clear war is not okay. And as Gulliver explains war, it really seems as if he is trying to justify those who have called wars. Yet Master Horse cannot understand why one would want to go to war, there shouldn’t be any reason to hate someone so much you would want to go to war with that individual. And yes I can agree, why would someone want to go to war, if it creates such unwanted chaos among all who are involved and even to those who are not involved. If  we even look on our own history, most of our land and freedom was built because of war.

I like Gulliver’s smile and Master Horse, because it’s a simple remark that has a great meaning. War is something we ultimately can’t escape from, it is bound to happen, we have very little control over it. It is a simple flaw of our human nature, we are naturally competitive with each other, we naturally debate with others who have opposing ideas. His little smirk isn’t out of disrespect, but out of “You really have no idea”.

I also think it’s interesting how the Yahoo’s are constantly described as being animals, the disrespect they are so often given doesn’t justify the Houyhnhnms to think of the Yahoo’s  as such a horrible race that aren’t important, are described as being so “vile”. The Yahoo’s aren’t worthy to be understood as a society, nor do they have any great ideas. As they are constantly described as being evil, and savage. The Houyhnhnms are essentially proposing their way is the only important way to think, to do, their actions are not evil, yet what they are implying is they are the true nation, they are right in all they do. But the reality is is they want a complete Utopia, which essentially is impossible to accomplish. A Utopia would never work because there is too much individuality , too many different ways of thinking, there would never be a way we’re everyone could be under the same system unless it was by a dangerous force, which we can imply by Master Horse. Master Horse’s ignorant view on war is rather disturbing, how could you not know about the dangers of war, or pretend to know of such thing? Ultimately it is impossible to accomplish.

Viviana Ojeda

Houyhnhnms (Not Human’s Example to Follow)

I disagree with the statement “Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels suggests that human kind would be happier if it could think and behave the way the do”. Although Gulliver does seem to enjoy living among the Houyhnhnms he is not entirely happy as he believed he was.

I believe Gulliver believes he is happier with the Houyhnhnms it is because he simply sees the positive in the Houyhnhnms and begins to judge the Yahoos as soon as he sees them.  As he states “Their shape was singular, and deformed, which a little decomposed me” (207). He is beginning to judge them as soon as he sees them which is something many many humans tend to do often without realizing it.

Throughout this page he repeats the word “hair” four times all describing them. The fact that they had hair seemed to bother him which is of course weird because his species(humans) Homo Sapiens of course also have hair and even if he does prefer Houyhnhnms they are horses after all so they are also covered in hair and have long tails which are made of hair after all. He also explains that the Houyhnhnms were “orderly and rational, so acute and judicious” (209) this statement ends up being extremely ironic because at the end of his stay he is essentially kicked out for no reason other than other’s people’s opinion about him, he never harmed anybody. Still, even when they kicked him out he still seemed to want to go back to them which is unreasonable of him.  When introducing himself to the Houyhnhnms he describes himself as a “poor distressed Englishman” (210). I find this statement extremely misleading because what should have been include in this chapter is him telling them that he made the choice to travel even though he previously had unpleasant experiences. He could have simply stayed home with his wife and kids but once he met the Houyhnhnms he saw the flaws humans had and refused to live among them but even though he did not desire to live with his family he could have used better words that didn’t degrade them considering he was part of human culture himself.

Essentially Gulliver is simply disgusted with the nature and greediness of humans. He is also guilty of that because he did not think his life was well enough even with his wife and kids, he was searching for more hence the travels he insisted in taking part in. I believe that the main theme here is moving on and by that I don’t mean overcoming and obstacle but the example of how fast human beings (or other beings) move on. Although Gulliver seemed to settle in all the places he stumbled upon some exploited him for tricks other welcomed him, they all seemed to became bored of him after having him for some time. I do not think it would be ideal for humans to live like Houyhnhnms because it did not end well for Gulliver who was kicked out by them. They also live life very simply which is something Gulliver would not have enjoyed that given that he decided to leave his wife and children to look for more adventures. Although Gulliver might have thought the Houyhnhnms lived an ideal lifestyle he was ignorant to the harm that would be bestowed upon him. He was in deniel because they treated him better than others did. He should have strived to be the best human he could be, not the best Houyhnhnms he could be (which he was not).

 

-Luz Zepeda

 

 

 

 

 

The price of Utopia

The Houyhnhnms are described by Gulliver as a sort of superior, intellectual race of what he describes as talking horses and while Gulliver extensively describes this utopian like society as ideal, I believe Swift was not attempting to show a perfect world we should all be living in, but reflect on our own society and accept the flaws as they come. The citizens are incredibly intellectual, reasoning, philosophical and most notably, emotionless. The first three characteristics without question what people think of when imaging a perfect or utopian society where they are “wholly governed by reason.” Gulliver explains in an incredibly long paragraph how in the Houyhnhnms land there are no pickpockets, robbers, liars, cheaters etc. emphasizing even more how ideal this country is being portrayed as.  However the horses are not perfect and its seen clearly with an intense and arguably . Throughout the reading the Houynhnhnms express dislike towards the yahoos and even talk about exterminating them as they continue to bad mouth the Yahoo’s. These ideas of genocide and war are not something that an ideal sociey would be hung up on but yet all the Houyhnhnms share that quality of disliking Yahoo’s.

But above all the Houyhnhnms main quality seems to be of an emotionless, heartless species focused only on themselves and judging the Yahoo’s for being inferior. I believe that what Swift is trying to tell us about the Houyhnhnms is that its impossible to reach this for several reasons. First he lets us know how the human race could never reach this as this utopian like country is run by horses. Second the horses are too focused on intellect, progress and equality to be distracted by what distracts humans. The horses laugh when Gulliver explains the english parliament and they even go as far as calling the English ‘Animals’ a nicely crafted ironic comparison coming from the horses. Swift was in no way trying to get us to be like the Houyhnhnms as he portrays them as being somewhat too intellectual and we can see how that lead them to this utopian society but even then they are faced with problems and issues that arise from them being emotionless horses and in some ways Swift is telling us than even Utopia (or what Gulliver thinks is utopia)  is not perfect.

 

-Noel Nevarez

 

Utopia or not?

I disagree that human kind would be happier if it could think and behave the way the Houyhnhnms do.

While Swift uses the Houyhnhnms as a Utopia for what society should be like the phrase itself is, in my perspective, an indicator as to how ridiculous the concept itself sounds. It’s ridiculous in the way that it’s not something society can obtain; it overall seems like a made up concept in order to expose what is wrong with the way 18th century Europe was coming along. The attraction of the Houyhnhnms was that they possessed reason and that their society is envisioned through a common wealth, indicating a contrast to how Europe and the New World were. These two places are driven by authority figures and are constructing a society based on lies and demands rather than as a unit with every citizen involved. While the Houyhnhms’ Utopia is “as good as it gets” is it realistic?

This reminds me of 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes since his novel Leviathan goes further into deconstructing the idea that people could live in harmony through a common wealth. When people are put on equal ground they, according to Hobbes, will soon compete with one another in order to strive in society since they do not have structure in society as to how things should be run. Adding the increase in competition society may enter a state of war in which they no longer live in harmony but rather a contrast of the Utopia envisioned in Gulliver’s Travels. Ultimately, that is why it becomes crucial to have authority figures so that a society does not have to enter a state of war and thus have a better chance in living with the fundamental laws of nature in order to maintain peace within themselves and their society.

 

– Kristy Frausto

Man In the Mirror? Or Horse in the Mirror?

Is Jonathan Swift Taking a Shot at Colonialism?

“I have already observed that they are subject to no diseases, and therefore can have no need of physicians. However, they have excellent medicines, composed of herbs, to cure accidental bruises and cuts in the pastern or frog of the foot, by sharp stones, as well as other maims and hurts in the several parts of the body” (349). This seems to be taking a shot at colonialism because it is well documented that the colonists brought diseases to the west. However, these Houyhnhnms have never been in contact with any type of disease. When Gulliver talks about the use of herbs it could be interpreted that the Houyhnhnms could also be a representation of the Native Americans. Before the arrival of the British or any European nation, the Native Americans were disease-free. There were no such things as smallpox or measles, but there were remedies for aches and pain in the form of ancient herbs. In my opinion, Swift intends to make the Houyhnhnms as innocent beings; just like the Native Americans.

But is this the case for Yahoos? In some way, the Yahoos could be a representation of what has become of those who have “fallen”. They are also animals, and very similar to those of a human. The reason why I say Yahoos are a representation of Native Americans that have become affected by the Europeans is because they are the only animals to have ever gotten sick. Not only that, but also their form of medication is just as bad as poop. Yes, poop!

“Their next business is from herbs, minerals, gums, oils, shells, salts, juices, sea-weed, excrements, barks of trees, serpents, toads, frogs, spiders, dead men’s flesh and bones, birds, beasts, and fishes, to form a composition, for smell and taste, the most abominable, nauseous, and detestable, they can possibly contrive, which the stomach immediately rejects with loathing, and this they call a vomit; or else, from the same store-house, with some other poisonous additions, they command us to take in at the orifice above or below (just as the physician then happens to be disposed) a medicine equally annoying and disgustful to the bowels; which, relaxing the belly, drives down all before it; and this they call a purge, or a clyster” (323).

Just like the Houyhnhnms, they have their own types of remedies but they also use the likes of spiders, dead human flesh and bones, poop, piss, etc. These all seem to be things that are less than likely to be actual medication or remedies. But they mix their medication with their own excrements and that sounds dangerous because it could potentially cause diseases to spread around. Other than that, the intention here is to prove how far these animals have fallen because of these “evils” that have consumed them. In such a manner, that I believe Swift’s intention here is to represent two sides of the Natives: the innocence and the destruction that has been set upon them.

Houyhnhnms: How the Enlightenment Should Be Like

Swift writes about the Houyhnhnms as if they are the ideas brought up during the Enlightenment. This is based on Gulliver’s observations of the Houyhnhnms in chapter 9, “They calculate the year by the revolution of the sun and moon, but use no subdivisions into weeks. They are well enough acquainted with the motions of those two luminaries, and understand the nature of eclipses; and this is the utmost progress of their astronomy” (349-350). Thus, showing the advancement of intellectual movement like the Enlightenment. By knowing the revolution of the sun and moon, they are able to identify how long a year is. Just like us today, we would also rely on this knowledge to calculate the days of the year. However, the difference between humans and Houyhnhnms is that humans actually divide the year into months, days, and weeks. Other than that, the Houyhnhnms do have knowledge of astronomy which was a very new concept within the Enlightenment era. The age of the Enlightenment showed the development of science, and so on it spread throughout Europe. In the lecture notes, it states the book satirizes ideas of the Enlightenment. And on top of that, during lecture, it has been noted that Swift was a supporter of the movement as well. I believe this is one of the many implications where Gulliver suggests that not only are Houyhnhnms the perfect example of followers of the Enlightenment, but also an example for mankind to follow. But Swift? Maybe their ideas are great but not everything is so perfect.

Poetry in a Reasonable Society? Nonsense!

Gulliver also makes a good point in chapter 9 when he states “In poetry, they must be allowed to excel all other mortals; wherein the justness of their similes, and the minuteness as well as exactness of their descriptions, are indeed inimitable. Their verses abound very much in both of these, and usually contain either some exalted notions of friendship and benevolence or the praises of those who were victors in races and other bodily exercise” (350). Here, he states that the Houyhnhnms are free to do create poetry. They are very skilled at creating poetry that it is impossible to imitate. And the message behind their poems would be either of positive things such as friendship, love, kindness, and winners. This to me, seems to be a response to Thomas Sprat’s perspective of the use of storytelling, poetry, and metaphors: ““…nothing may be sooner obtained than this vicious abundance of Phrase, this trick of Metaphors, this volubility of Tongue…” (Sprat, p. 2176). The Enlightenment was more than just a science revolution, it was the age of reason. And because of that, poetry was put on the shelf during the movement.

I believe what Swift is trying to convey here is that the Houyhnhnms are capable to do anything they want without being criticized for not being “reasonable”. In addition to that, I think Swift is saying that poetry can be great on its own category. The society that the Houyhnhnms have created for themselves are “perfect”. In a sense, where they can do absolutely anything without the interference of evil or corruption. And as innocent as they are, in a society where Sprat wants only reason and evidence, the Houyhnhnms wouldn’t know what they have done wrong because they believe it is right to create poetry. They are able to make poetry and work on science at the same time; unlike the actual Enlightenment. Therefore, I believe Gulliver is suggesting that it would be better for mankind to allow the use of storytelling in the age of science/reason. But Swift is saying that this is too sweet, and to have a utopia this good-there must be some bad, bad things going on behind the scenes.

Conclusion

Think of it like make-up, maybe the Houyhnhnms are born with it, maybe it’s Mayebline. All jokes aside Swift states, “The question to be debated was, ‘whether the Yahoos should be exterminated from the face of the earth?’… they were the most restive and indocible, mischievous and malicious; they would privately suck the teats of the Houyhnhnms’ cows, kill and devour their cats, trample down their oats and grass, if they were not continually watched, and commit a thousand other extravagancies” (346). 

This is a not so subtle warning from Swift. In order to create a perfect utopia, they must remove the Yahoos from existence. Not only that, but they also hint at Eugenics by having a standard for their own species. I see parallels to not only Hitler’s regime, but also America’s attempt at Eugenics in the early 20th century. And on top of that, we also have parallels to the witch-trials during the early western world with the description of sucking the teets of cows, killing cats, etc. It sounds eerily similar to things that have yet to come, but it just shows how the literature of power has moved one single idea throughout centuries. 

– Christopher Luong

Gulliver’s Travels: A Debate

For next Friday (2/24), students will write a blog post in support or disagreement with the following prompt, to be debated in class that day:

Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels suggests that human kind would be happier if it could think and behave the way the Houyhnhnms do.

Take the time to do a close reading of a key passage from Gulliver’s Travels that confirms or denies this claim.  Please categorize your post under “Satirizing the Enlightenment” and don’t forget to create specific and relevant tags.  The post is due by Friday 1pm, but students have the option to revise it until 6pm that day.  And please sign your posts so that your TA, Hannah, and I know who wrote what.  Warning: blank or filler “placeholder” posts submitted after the deadline will not receive a grade!

To help you with this post, here are 5 close reading guidelines you should follow:

1. Note key words or phrases that repeat in that passage.

2. Look for irony, paradox, ambiguity, and tension.

3. Note those words or phrases that seem odd or out-of-place.

4. Note any important symbols, motifs, and themes.

5.  Is there anything missing from the text that should be there?