“Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift (1726) – Part 4: A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms (Ch. 5-8)

“Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift (1726) – Part 4: A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms (Ch. 5-8)

  • Gulliver realized he made humans look worse than Yahoos. He had become so enamored with the Houyhnhnms in all things that he overemphasized human faults & downplayed its strengths. The master, having fully digested all of Gulliver’s explanations, gave his opinion on humans
    • Humans have just enough reason to aggravate our natural corruptions & make new ones nature hadn’t given us. Humans disarmed themselves of their abilities & made their lives multiplying their wants & making themselves miserable is trying to fulfill them
      • Gulliver: Human institutions of government & law only exist because of flaws in reason & virtue. Reason alone should be enough to govern a rational creature.
      • Master: You might be similar to the Yahoos physically but you also have much in common in your mind. Yahoos hate each other more than they do other animals & often because of their body shapes. It’s not a bad idea to cover up with clothes but not the solution. If you gave 5 Yahoos enough food for 50, one of them will try to get it all for himself & it required a Houyhnhnm to be near to monitor their behavior
      • They even like shiny stones & hows the same greed as humans which puts them in a foul mood. Their biggest problem is their rapacious appetite for everything, even eating just so others won’t have any, even to their own detriment
      • Yahoos suck on a certain root that has the same effects that alcohol has on us: happiness, anger, sadness & finally, drowsiness. They’re the only ones who make an attempt at medicine because they’re the only ones who suffered from disease. The medicine is a mixture of piss & shit forced down the throat
      • The master said learning, government, arts, manufactures, etc. are what separated Yahoos from people. Although there’s a leader Yahoo, his job is to lick his master’s ass & feel & to drive the Mrs around. When his leadership ends, all the other Yahoo shit & piss on him. Perhaps there’s a parallel to people
      • Gulliver likens this to dogs & their behavior with respect to humans
      • The Master said female Yahoos were similar to women. They have sex while pregnant. The males & females argue & fight with each other as they do with the same sex
      • Yahoos love being dirty & unclean more than other animals. Perhaps master said this because they didn’t have pigs to compare to. Sometimes Yahoos went into a corner & howl at others who come near. The only cure for this is hard work
      • Females seduce males behind the bushes. Other females often deride or reject a female for no reason.

Chapter 8

  • It was easy to compare Yahoos to humans but Gulliver wanted to be able to observe their behavior himself. The master allowed it & gave him a sorrel as a guide. He took his sword with him.
    • The Yahoos tried to grab him & jump on him like a bunch of monkeys. The Youth are agile, violent & very smelly. They pissed on him & he had to wash himself in the river.
    • Yahoos aren’t teachable & only learn to perform their low-skilled tasks. While they are strong, they’re cowards, lazy & cruel. The gingers have more libido & are more mischievous than the others
    • The Houyhnhnms keep Yahoos in hut far from their houses. Some live in fields where they clean up various dead animals. They’re able to swim & fish to feed their young.
      • The weather got hot, so he took a bath in the stream. A young female Yahoo caught a glimpse of him & pounced on him out of a desire. He yelled & his guard ran toward him & scared her off
    • While the Houyhnhnms thought this was funny, he realized he was definitely a Yahoo since such a young Yahoo was attracted to him
  • Having been there 3 years, he ought to tell us about Houyhnhnms. They are naturally disposed to virtue & have no idea how a rational being could be evil. They choose to cultivate reason & therefore cultivate virtue.
    • They don’t understand the idea of an opinion or how something could be disputable. Reason tells us to affirm or deny only what’s certain. Beyond that, you can’t do either. Controversies, disputes are unheard of.
    • The Houyhnhnms laugh at conjectures posing as knowledge
    • Friendship & benevolence were the 2 highest virtues. Strangers were treated the same as neighbors. Decency & civility were much more important than ceremony
    • There’s no fondness for one’s young & they’re only raised according to reason. Nature teaches them to love all equally. Only reason gives individuals distinction. Once a couple produce a male & female, they break up unless one of the foals dies. They don’t wish to overpopulate inferior. Inferior Houyhnhnms are allowed to have 3 males & 3 females to serve as servants to the nobles
    • Strength is valued in males & beauty in females. Unfaithfulness doesn’t exist. The married couple has a friendship but not any stronger than that between other Houyhnhnms
      • They educate their children of both sexes the same. Lessons are in temperance, industry, exercise & cleanliness, with 3 hours of grazing in the morning & the evening. Oats weren’t given until they’re 18 years old.
    • 4 times a year, they have a running & jumping competition where the winner was serenade. Once every 4 years on the Vernal Equinox, the Houyhnhnms have a council to discuss the affairs of the country & regulate the constitution of families

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