Study Guide

Gulliver's Travels Part 4, Chapter 2

By Jonathan Swift

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Part 4, Chapter 2

"The author conducted by a Houyhnhnm to his house. The house described. The author's reception. The food of the Houyhnhnms. The author in distress for want of meat. Is at last relieved. His manner of feeding in this country."

  • Gulliver and the gray horse go about three miles, to a long, low building.
  • Gulliver sees several horses doing housework and thinks that the people who tamed these animals to such a degree must be the smartest people who ever were.
  • Gulliver starts to think he's hallucinating, because he can't figure out (a) where the people are, and (b) what kind of man needs to be served by horses.
  • Finally, Gulliver arrives at a building far from the main house, which has three of those gross, hairy animals from the previous chapter chained to the wall.
  • They are eating roots and meat from animals that have died by accident – donkeys, dogs, and cows.
  • The horse leader orders "the sorrel nag" ("sorrel" meaning a kind of chestnut or reddish color, "nag" meaning horse) to unchain one of the beasts and bring him to Gulliver.
  • When Gulliver sees this beast close up, he realizes that what the horses have been calling Yahoos are actually men: their hands have uncut nails, and they are a bit hairier and more calloused than Gulliver, but still, they are unmistakably human beings.
  • What is clearly confusing the horses is that Gulliver has the head of a Yahoo, but his body is pretty different: they don't understand that his clothes are not part of his skin.
  • The horses see that Gulliver truly loathes the Yahoos, and that he also can't eat the raw meat they eat.
  • Gulliver sees a cow passing and indicates that he will milk her, which is how he finally feeds himself.
  • Around noon, an elderly horse appears in a carriage drawn by 4 Yahoos.
  • He settles down with the gray horse to a lunch of hay, mashed oats, and milk.
  • They all appear extremely well-mannered, modest, and decent.
  • After lunch, the gray horse (whom Gulliver has started calling the Master Horse) indicates that he's worried that Gulliver has eaten so little.
  • Finally, Gulliver figures out a way to make a kind of bread out of oats, which he eats with milk. And even though it's not the most delicious food in the world, a steady diet of this stuff makes him really healthy.
  • Gulliver spends his first night lying in straw between the house and the Yahoo stable.

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