by Jonathan Swift
Gulliver's Travels Foreignness and 'the Other' Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph)
I remember when I was at Lilliput, the complexion of those diminutive people appeared to me the fairest in the world; and talking upon this subject with a person of learning there, who was an intimate friend of mine, he said that my face appeared much fairer and smoother when he looked on me from the ground, than it did upon a nearer view, when I took him up in my hand, and brought him close, which he confessed was at first a very shocking sight. He said, "he could discover great holes in my skin; that the stumps of my beard were ten times stronger than the bristles of a boar, and my complexion made up of several colours altogether disagreeable:" although I must beg leave to say for myself, that I am as fair as most of my sex and country. (2.1.11)
Speaking of perspective, one of the first observations Gulliver makes upon arriving at Brobdingnag is that, when you see the human body magnified, man, is it ugly. Suddenly, all of those flaws that we barely see – pores and moles and complexion issues – become totally apparent. Here, Gulliver is comparing his own experiences with Brobdingnagian bodies to his own body as seen by a Lilliputian friend of his. This is an interesting moment of alienation from Gulliver's own body, which foreshadows his later self-distancing from the Yahoos in Part 4.
My daughter kneeled to ask my blessing, but I could not see her till she arose, having been so long used to stand with my head and eyes erect to above sixty feet; and then I went to take her up with one hand by the waist. I looked down upon the servants, and one or two friends who were in the house, as if they had been pigmies and I a giant. (2.8.17)
After Gulliver spends several years in Brobdingnag, he finds himself changing his perspective drastically. When he arrives back in England, his own family seems completely unfamiliar to him. Travel has changed Gulliver's perspective so much that he sees people his own size as though they are "pigmies" – little people. He has become a stranger to himself, an effect that really gets amplified in Part 4 with the Yahoos.
The beast and I were brought close together, and by our countenances diligently compared both by master and servant, who thereupon repeated several times the word Yahoo. My horror and astonishment are not to be described, when I observed in this abominable animal, a perfect human figure: the face of it indeed was flat and broad, the nose depressed, the lips large, and the mouth wide; but these differences are common to all savage nations. (4.2.4)
There are two things going on in this passage: first, Gulliver has the sinking realization that the Yahoos are humans. He must confront how loathsome he now finds humanity (the jury is still out on whether the novel's satire supports Gulliver's strong rejection of humanity in this section – check out our "Character Analysis" of the Master Horse for more on this). There's also this racialist reference to "savage nations." For a further discussion of Gulliver's comparisons of European and Houyhnhnm Land Yahoos, see our "Character Analysis" of the Yahoos.