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Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels

by Jonathan Swift

Society and Class Quotes Page 3

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #7

He made me observe, "that among the Houyhnhnms, the white, the sorrel, and the iron-gray, were not so exactly shaped as the bay, the dapple-gray, and the black; nor born with equal talents of mind, or a capacity to improve them; and therefore continued always in the condition of servants, without ever aspiring to match out of their own race, which in that country would be reckoned monstrous and unnatural." (4.6.15)

The Houyhnhnms split themselves up according to color and do not believe in intermixing. Gulliver doesn't talk much about races explicitly, but do you think this point about the Houyhnhnms indicate a racialist agenda to this portion of the satire? Where else might we find signs of what Gulliver thinks of race?

Quote #8

I made his honour my most humble acknowledgments for the good opinion he was pleased to conceive of me, but assured him at the same time, "that my birth was of the lower sort, having been born of plain honest parents, who were just able to give me a tolerable education; that nobility, among us, was altogether a different thing from the idea he had of it; that our young noblemen are bred from their childhood in idleness and luxury; that, as soon as years will permit, they consume their vigour, and contract odious diseases among lewd females. (4.6.16)

The Master Horse thinks Gulliver must be a superior breed of human. Gulliver says, Oh no – the nobility in my country has become rotten with luxury. Yet, even while he rejects noble birth as it currently exists in England, Gulliver loves "people of quality" and believes in the maintenance of noble families. Why would a man with "birth of the lower sort" be so invested in the aristocracy as an ideal?

Quote #9

He had heard, indeed, some curious Houyhnhnms observe, that in most herds there was a sort of ruling Yahoo (as among us there is generally some leading or principal stag in a park), who was always more deformed in body, and mischievous in disposition, than any of the rest; that this leader had usually a favourite as like himself as he could get, whose employment was to lick his master's feet and posteriors, and drive the female Yahoos to his kennel; for which he was now and then rewarded with a piece of ass's flesh. This favourite is hated by the whole herd, and therefore, to protect himself, keeps always near the person of his leader. (4.7.13)

The Master Horse tells Gulliver that Yahoos tend to choose terrible leaders, who surround themselves with even worse people to make them look better. And indeed, the Houyhnhnms whom Gulliver likes so much don't appear to have leaders or power hierarchies that Gulliver recognizes. But many of the great men of history whom Gulliver meets in Glubbdubdrib are leaders of men. What makes a man a good leader in this novel? Or a bad one?

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