Gulliver's Travels By Jonathan Swift Summary and Analysis Part IV: Chapter 10

Summary

Gulliver grows more and more used to the Houyhnhnm way of life. He has a small room of his own with two chairs. He makes clothing of animal skins and shoes of Yahoo skins. He often dines on bread and honey. The conversation he listens to with the Houyhnhnms' permission is decent, moderate, polite, and virtuous. All Yahoos — native and European — seem detestable alongside the Houyhnhnms, and as best he can, Gulliver begins imitating the Houyhnhnm walk, speech, and manners.

Gulliver's attempt to become a Houyhnhnm frightens a number of the horses. They reason that Gulliver is a Yahoo — despite his clothes, his bit of reason, and the rest of his niceties — and they fear that he may organize the other Yahoos and revolt. They advise Gulliver's master to either treat his strange pet Yahoo like a Yahoo or command him to swim back to his native land. Gulliver is thunderstruck; he would prefer death. But finally he resolves to sail to an island visible from the Houyhnhnm coast. This decided, he builds a boat with the help of the sorrel servant. He covers the boat with Yahoo hides and caulks it with Yahoo fat. Then it is time for him to depart. His last request is to be allowed to kneel and kiss the hoof of his master.

Analysis

The reader has already seen Gulliver's pride operate to some extent in the earlier books. Gulliver identified himself with the giants in Book II, for example. Now he identifies himself with the horses. Gulliver's identification of himself with the giants produced only ludicrous results. But, in this book, his attempt to identify himself with the horses is more critical. The horses are alien to Gulliver; graphically, in their physical contrasts, they are not at all similar to him. Yet Gulliver thinks of the Yahoos as alien and animal. He makes traps of Yahoo hair. He makes shoes of Yahoo skin. He covers his boat with Yahoo skin and calicos it with Yahoo fat. Separating himself from his naturally depraved cousins, the Yahoos, Gulliver also separates himself from the European Yahoos. He is near to madness — because of pride. Swift warns us of this danger by using the phrase "devoted to destruction" when Gulliver is sent away by the Houyhnhnms. The phrase is theological, describing those with an excess of pride, who reject charity and humility.

When Gulliver says, "When I thought of my family, my friends, my countrymen or [the] human race in general, I considered them as they really were, Yahoos in shape and disposition, only a little more civilized . . . ," he is, in essence, rejecting the society (including wife and family) that has produced him. He seeks admittance into "the perfection of nature," the society of the Houyhnhnms. Nevertheless, even though Gulliver recognizes several Houyhnhnm maxims, including, "That nature is very easily satisfied" and "That necessity is the mother of invention," he does not recognize a third, implied maxim (a maxim understood by Houyhnhnms, but not by Gulliver): "Once a Yahoo, always a Yahoo."

Glossary

ticking strong, heavy cloth, often striped, used for casings of mattresses, pillows, etc.

springes snares consisting of a noose attached to something under tension, as a bent tree branch.

splenetics irritable or spiteful people; here, another group of people whom Gulliver can avoid while living in the land of the Houyhnhnms.

the natural pravity (depravity) of those animals the inherent corruption and wickedness, the basic nature, of the Yahoos.

copse a thicket of small trees or shrubs.

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Gulliver’s visit to Lilliput allows Swift to satirize what sort of rulers?




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