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Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels


by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver's Travels Gender Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #4

The wives and daughters lament their confinement to the island, although I think it the most delicious spot of ground in the world; and although they live here in the greatest plenty and magnificence, and are allowed to do whatever they please, they long to see the world, and take the diversions of the metropolis, which they are not allowed to do without a particular license from the king; and this is not easy to be obtained, because the people of quality have found, by frequent experience, how hard it is to persuade their women to return from below. (3.2.16)

Why don't the women of Laputa become mathematicians? Why do they spend all of their time "allowed to do whatever they please," which mostly seems to be seducing guys and going down to the mainland to have more fun? What can you deduce about Gulliver's opinion of women from this look at Laputian ladies?

Quote #5

My master told me, "there were some qualities remarkable in the Yahoos, which he had not observed me to mention, or at least very slightly, in the accounts I had given of humankind." He said, "those animals, like other brutes, had their females in common; but in this they differed, that the she Yahoo would admit the males while she was pregnant; and that the hes would quarrel and fight with the females, as fiercely as with each other; both which practices were such degrees of infamous brutality, as no other sensitive creature ever arrived at. (4.7.15)

The Master Horse is grossed out by the fact that human women (a) keep having sex during pregnancy (prude!), and (b) fight fiercely with human men. He also gets in a gibe that humans, "like other brutes, had their females in common." In other words, that human women can sleep with multiple men, much as animals do. What is the tone of the Master Horse's discussion of human women? Is the Master Horse's assessment of human women consistent with other parts of Gulliver's own analyses of women? Do you get the sense that the novel of Gulliver's Travels as a whole supports a poor opinion of women, or do different sections contradict each other?

Quote #6

This was a matter of diversion to my master and his family, as well as of mortification to myself. For now I could no longer deny that I was a real Yahoo in every limb and feature, since the females had a natural propensity to me, as one of their own species. Neither was the hair of this brute of a red colour (which might have been some excuse for an appetite a little irregular), but black as a sloe, and her countenance did not make an appearance altogether so hideous as the rest of her kind; for I think she could not be above eleven years old. (4.8.7)

Gulliver is swimming one day during his stay in Houyhnhnm Land when a very young Yahoo, overcome with sexual desire, hurls herself at Gulliver. This startles him enough to make him scream, and he has to be saved from the girl by his guardian, the sorrel nag. We're struck once more by the association of women with sexual desire – Gulliver pretty much never indicates that he wants sex. Why might Gulliver be so careful to describe sexual desire in others, but not in himself? What kinds of ethical conclusions can we draw about Gulliver's view of sex?

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