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Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels


by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver's Travels Lies and Deceit Quotes

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

Quote #7

I said, "there was a society of men among us, bred up from their youth in the art of proving, by words multiplied for the purpose, that white is black, and black is white, according as they are paid. To this society all the rest of the people are slaves. (4.5.11)

This "society of men" is lawyers. Gulliver thinks that all lawyers must be deceitful because they're paid to argue, and it has nothing to do with personal conviction. And the Master Horse agrees that it is a perversion of law to make it subject to things like money and private interest.

Quote #8

But I must freely confess, that the many virtues of those excellent quadrupeds, placed in opposite view to human corruptions, had so far opened my eyes and enlarged my understanding, that I began to view the actions and passions of man in a very different light, and to think the honour of my own kind not worth managing; which, besides, it was impossible for me to do, before a person of so acute a judgment as my master, who daily convinced me of a thousand faults in myself, whereof I had not the least perception before, and which, with us, would never be numbered even among human infirmities. I had likewise learned, from his example, an utter detestation of all falsehood or disguise; and truth appeared so amiable to me, that I determined upon sacrificing every thing to it. (4.7.1)

Here, Gulliver is explaining why his tune has changed so much. When he lived in Brobdingnag, he tried to dress up England's customs to make them seem better to the critical Brobdingnagian King. But in Houyhnhnm Land, he doesn't bother. He just speaks directly about the many awful things he has seen in England. And yet, is it any more truthful only to reveal the bad things about a place and none of the good things? Gulliver seems to be falling into his own kind of irrational prejudice here.

Quote #9

I remember it was with extreme difficulty that I could bring my master to understand the meaning of the word opinion, or how a point could be disputable; because reason taught us to affirm or deny only where we are certain; and beyond our knowledge we cannot do either. So that controversies, wranglings, disputes, and positiveness, in false or dubious propositions, are evils unknown among the Houyhnhnms. (4.8.9)

The Houyhnhnms have no opinions, which Gulliver likes. But Swift was a quarrelsome old cuss; why else would he write such biting satires? Surely this criticism of opinion is at least a bit sarcastic?

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