by Jonathan Swift
Gulliver's Travels Foreignness and 'the Other' Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph)
My master added, "that he was daily pressed by the Houyhnhnms of the neighbourhood to have the assembly's exhortation executed, which he could not put off much longer. He doubted it would be impossible for me to swim to another country; and therefore wished I would contrive some sort of vehicle, resembling those I had described to him, that might carry me on the sea; in which work I should have the assistance of his own servants, as well as those of his neighbours." He concluded, "that for his own part, he could have been content to keep me in his service as long as I lived; because he found I had cured myself of some bad habits and dispositions, by endeavouring, as far as my inferior nature was capable, to imitate the Houyhnhnms." (4.10.7)
Sorry to all the Houyhnhnms out there, but as human beings, we find the Master Horse fairly obnoxious. Maybe we're just not rational enough to follow his supreme genius. The Houyhnhnms think Gulliver is a threat because they are concerned that he will encourage the other Yahoos of the island to rebel. They demand that Gulliver leave the island forever, and they make the Master Horse tell him so. But the Master Horse is kind enough to tell Gulliver that, for his own part, he would be happy to keep Gulliver as a servant, because Gulliver has worked so hard to overcome his "inferior nature." Patronizing, much? We have to take at least some of the Master Horse's conclusions about people with a grain of salt, because the Houyhnhnms are so intolerant of other ways of living or seeing the world.
When they began to talk, I thought I never heard or saw any thing more unnatural; for it appeared to me as monstrous as if a dog or a cow should speak in England, or a Yahoo in Houyhnhnmland. (4.11.8)
We've talked about Gulliver's difficulty adjusting to the size of people in England once he gets back from Brobdingnag. He has similar trouble when he returns from Lilliput. Why does Gulliver find it so much more jarring to come back from Houyhnhnm Land? How does he try to adapt to Yahoos once he comes back to England? Does he really seem to be making much of an effort?
For who can read of the virtues I have mentioned in the glorious Houyhnhnms, without being ashamed of his own vices, when he considers himself as the reasoning, governing animal of his country? I shall say nothing of those remote nations where Yahoos preside; among which the least corrupted are the Brobdingnagians; whose wise maxims in morality and government it would be our happiness to observe. (4.12.4).
Gulliver seems to be giving us a rationale for the whole form of Gulliver's Travels. Whether or not you agree that the Houyhnhnms are "glorious", the important point is that Gulliver assumes that looking at the lives of other peoples – Houyhnhnms and Brobdingnagians – should make "us" Europeans feel ashamed. We can't help but compare our own society to these "foreign" lands, which is where the satire comes in.