Study Guide

Gulliver's Travels What's Up With the Ending?

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What's Up With the Ending?

The last chapter of Gulliver's Travels provides a logical conclusion to the development of Gulliver's character. He goes from ordinary guy to dedicated hater of mankind. In the first part of the novel, he observes two islands, Lilliput and Blefuscu, which symbolize the smallness and insignificance of warfare between England and France. In the second part of the novel, Gulliver visits Brobdingnag, where the giants of the island make him feel small, and where the moral decision of the Brobdingnagian King not to use gunpowder foreshadows the peace-loving, delightful horsies in Houyhnhnm Land.

The third part pokes fun at airy and abstract thinking. And the fourth and final part, set in Houyhnhnm Land, reinforces all of the lessons Gulliver has learned so far:

  1. England (and Europe in general) really is stupid and violent.
  2. Being practical and simple, instead of luxurious and elaborate, leads to a better life.
  3. Actually, it's not just Europe that's bad, it's all of humankind.
Over the course of the four parts of Gulliver's Travels, Gulliver learns to hate humanity for its weakness and sinfulness (and remember, as we mentioned in "In a Nutshell," a satire is precisely designed to point out humanity's flaws). It makes sense that the final chapter really underlines this lesson. This is especially clear in the last several paragraphs. Gulliver informs us that he "began last week to permit [his] wife to eat dinner with [him]" (4.12.12). In other words, he has been home for five years, and he has only just overcome his hatred of people enough to let his wife sit at the dinner table with him – as long as she stays at the far end.Gulliver starts out as a traveler interested in observing his fellow man. But now, at the end of his enlightening stay with the Houyhnhnms, he has retreated to the interiors of his own mind. He can't stand the idea of leaving his house and garden. Gulliver has to look at his own face in the mirror to get used to the idea of being around humans again. He leaves us with a message describing just what disgusts him most about man: given that we are so vile, vicious, backstabbing, and greedy, how can we feel any pride in ourselves at all? And we at Shmoop have to be honest: if you finish Gulliver's Travels happy to be human, and with no desire to live among a herd of horses, you're stronger than we are. (For more on whether we buy Gulliver's final conversion to manhater, check out our "Character Analysis" of Houyhnhnm Land.)

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