Power and riches
Researched Analysis Essay ~ First finished paper In Jonathan Swift’s novel Gulliver’s Travels – Part IV (“A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms”, satire is one of the genres that is used. Swift uses satire to show the flaws of humanity, and the flaws of society. The ‘Yahoo’ that exists within each of us is demonstrated and is an attack on the essence of man and how man, in the form of the horse-like Houyhnhnms, could be elevated to reach his ultimate potential.
While the man-like Yahoos desire “power and riches,” and suffer the “terrible effects of lust, intemperance, malice and envy” (Swift 249), the Houyhnhnms find these flaws so alien that Gulliver has great difficulty even making them understand the concepts. Man is not a reasonable creature because the want of power and money gets in the way of rational thinking, and of what is right and wrong. One of the many attacks that Swift directs at society is that man must lie and twist the truth to get what he wants.
The “faculty of lying, so perfectly well understood, and so universally practiced among human creatures” (Swift 247) was totally foreign to the Houyhnhnms. Lying undermines the very purpose of speech-to make us understand one another. In his effort to explain European mankind to these noble creatures Gulliver is made by Swift to satirize his own society. Must men lie and twist the truth to get what they want? Another way Gulliver shows the flaws of society is by explaining the need for government and laws. Men cannot come to an agreement if there are no laws and government to rule them.
Gulliver manages to rid himself of the “habit of lying, shuffling, deceiving, and equivocating, so deeply rooted in the very souls of all my species; especially the Europeans” (Swift 234) only because of the instruction and example of the Houyhnhnms. This attacks the ‘Yahoo’ in each of us. So man does have the ability to tell the truth, though we constantly deceive others to get what we want. Is it something that is so deep inside of us that we cannot change even if we wanted to? What did the Yahoos look like? “Their heads and breasts were covered in thick hair, some frizzled and others lank; they had beards like goats…
” (Swift 237). Shave and clothe them and they look like Europeans. What, then, is the essence of man? How ironic it is that a human being could be so animal-like, not taking care of themselves and acting irrationally, while the horse-like Houyhnhnms were so superior. Before he understood the relationship of the Yahoos and the Houyhnhnms, Gulliver was “amazed to see such actions and behavior in brute beasts; and concluded with myself that if the inhabitants of this country were endued with a proportionable degree of reason, they must be the wisest people on earth” (Swift 238).
The irony, of course, is that the supposed “brute beasts” were superior to mankind. They had the ability to reason and be rational and not let greed get in the way of their decisions. This is also proven when Gulliver, at first, wanted only to go home and be with his friends and family. In the end, all Gulliver wanted to do is to stay with the Houyhnhnms and learn more about them. When he was finally forced to go home, he was disgusted to see how the ‘Yahoos’ at home lived. He saw the potential of what the human lifestyle could be and wanted nothing to do with society. Ironically, his only friends at home were the horses.
In Twayne’s Masterworks Studies Gulliver’s Travels The Politics of Satire Ronald Knowles analyzes the use of satire that Jonathan Swift used in the novel. His major focus is on how Swift employed the Houyhnhnms as a satirical device to show the downfall of man and how the human race could be improved. The Houyhnhnms had “no words for power, government, war, law, punishment, and a thousand other things” (Knowles 127). The Houyhnhnms do not understand, or even know, these words. This demonstrates that it is possible to run a country without these institutions, if the people are reasonable, rational, creatures.
People can learn how to come to agreements through open and honest discussion, and lead peaceful, orderly lives. Knowles points out Swift’s conclusion that “reason alone is sufficient to govern a Rational Creature” (Knowles 127) having the ability to reason with one another without greed, without the want of power and money getting in the way, is a characteristic that the ‘Yahoos’ do not have. If they were able to gain this ability they would need only reason to govern their land, without the need of artificial means, such as laws and government.
This also shows how in the Houyhnhnm Country all are equal and have a say in what goes on. The Houyhnhnms are able to use what they are given in nature as tools to help them survive instead of destroying themselves. “Nature and Reason were sufficient guides for a reasonable animal, ” says Swift (Knowles 127). Although Gulliver points out that the Houyhnhnms “Wants and Passions are fewer than among us” (Knowles 127), Knowles questions just how “utopian” Houyhnhnm society really was. He compares Houyhnhnm philosophy to stoicism-the suppression of passion and the elevation of reason.
But, Knowles points out, “since they don’t have any emotions to resist (apart from one that they nurture-hatred of the Yahoos),” Houyhnhnm stoicism was cheaply earned (Knowles 128). The human race, in contrast, has many desires and passions. Men want to have everything, and share nothing. They wish power and money, and cannot appreciate what they have, or what they are given. They want instant gratification and then want even more. Knowles compares Houyhnhnm Land to Sir Thomas More’s Utopia: promoting “friendship and benevolence… they have an unceremonious respect for each other, and even strangers…