Study Guide

Gulliver's Travels Part 4, Chapter 8

By Jonathan Swift

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Part 4, Chapter 8

"The author relates several particulars of the Yahoos. The great virtues of the Houyhnhnms. The education and exercise of their youth. Their general assembly."

  • Gulliver asks the Master Horse for permission to observe the Yahoos, which the Master Horse gives as long as Gulliver is always accompanied by a Houyhnhnm guard – the sorrel nag.
  • Yahoo children are agile, and they also smell bad.
  • Yahoos are strong but cowardly, stubborn, lying, and deceitful.
  • The Yahoos also swim well, which leads Gulliver to an adventure.
  • One day, the weather is so hot that he wants to go for a swim, so he asks the sorrel nag if he may go for a dip in the river.
  • The sorrel nag agrees.
  • A young female Yahoo finds Gulliver so hot that she goes running into the river to try and seduce him on the spot.
  • Gulliver freaks out and yells.
  • At the sight of his Houyhnhnm guard, she runs away.
  • Gulliver is truly embarrassed, because this is the final proof he needs that he is, in fact, a Yahoo.
  • Gulliver has spent three years in Houyhnhnm Land and is ready to tell the reader a bit more about the Houyhnhnms.
  • The Houyhnhnms do not understand the word "opinion" truly, because they are totally devoted to reason, and you can only have an opinion about something you do not know absolutely.
  • It doesn't make sense to argue over something you can't know; the Houyhnhnms believe that you should respect other people's ideas without trying to dominate with your own.
  • The Houyhnhnms are equally good to their neighbors and strangers; they value friendship above all else.
  • When a female Houyhnhnm has had a foal of each gender, a couple will stop producing children. This is to keep Houyhnhnm Land from becoming overpopulated.
  • The rule is slightly relaxed for servant-class Houyhnhnms , who can have up to three kids of each gender.
  • The Houyhnhnms do not believe in mixing races, so a Houyhnhnm will only marry another Houyhnhnm of the same color. (For a discussion of race in Gulliver's Travels, check out our "Character Analyses" of the Houyhnhnms and the Yahoos.)
  • The Houyhnhnms apply their rules of reason even to marriage, which is always arranged for a couple by their parents. Houyhnhnm couples are always faithful.
  • The Houyhnhnms believe in equality of education for the sexes, since it's not rational to leave half the species knowing nothing except how to bear children.
  • Children are strictly disciplined, with a restricted grass diet and lots and lots of exercise.
  • The Houyhnhnms have assemblies representing the whole nation every four years, where they check in to make sure everyone has all the supplies they need.
  • If one Houyhnhnm couple has two sons and another has two daughters, they'll trade one to make sure that they have the set quantity of one boy and one girl.
  • If one family has lost one or both children, another Houyhnhnm couple has to have a child to supply their loss.

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