Study Guide

Gulliver's Travels Part 4, Chapter 1

By Jonathan Swift

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Part 4, Chapter 1

"The author sets out as captain of a ship. His men conspire against him, confine him a long time to his cabin, and set him on shore in an unknown land. He travels up into the country. The Yahoos, a strange sort of animal, described. The author meets two Houyhnhnms."

  • Gulliver spends 5 months at home with his family before he heads out yet again, leaving his wife pregnant.
  • This time, he gets to be captain of his ship, the Adventurer. Their job is to trade goods with residents of the South Seas.
  • They set sail on September 7, 1710.
  • Several of Gulliver's sailors die of "calentures," a fever of the Tropics, so he has to hire some new guys.
  • These new guys form a conspiracy to mutiny against Gulliver. They keep Gulliver a prisoner in his own cabin as they sail around trading with the locals.
  • In May, 1711, one of the sailors comes down to Gulliver's cabin to tell him that they have decided to maroon Gulliver ashore.
  • Gulliver starts exploring his new island, where he sees some of its inhabitants from a distance: they look like naked, hairy monsters with claws for climbing trees. Gulliver finds them disgusting.
  • One of these beasts approaches Gulliver, and he hits it with the flat of his sword – he doesn't want to damage the animal, for fear that the inhabitants of the island will be angry that he's damaging their livestock.
  • The hairy thing roars, and about 40 other hairy things come running over.
  • Gulliver takes refuge in a tree, shaking his sword to keep the animals back, but they start throwing their excrement at him in rage. Gulliver is worried he's going to be smothered under all of this feces.
  • Suddenly, all the animals turn around and run away.
  • Gulliver looks over his shoulder and sees a horse coming his way. He looks rather surprised at the sight of Gulliver, and when Gulliver reaches to touch him, he shies away.
  • The horse neighs several times in a way that seems to have meaning.
  • A second horse arrives, and the two seem to be talking to each other.
  • Gulliver tries to sneak away, but one of the horses neighs at him and he returns as though he has been ordered.
  • What really seems to surprise the horses is Gulliver's clothes, which they keep indicating and talking over.
  • Gulliver finally addresses them, asking for their help in exchange for a knife and a bracelet he happens to be carrying. He thinks the horses are probably magicians in disguise.
  • The horses keep saying the word "Yahoo," which Gulliver repeats back to them.
  • They correct his pronunciation, and then teach him another word: "Houyhnhnm" (generally pronounced "whinnim," obviously coming from "whinny," the sound a horse makes).
  • The two horses part, and one of them (who is gray) indicates that Gulliver should follow him.

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