Gulliver's Travels | Study Guide

Jonathan Swift

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Gulliver's Travels | Part 4, Chapter 10 | Summary

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Summary

Gulliver has quarters in his master's house that are built in the Houyhnhnm fashion, and he enjoys spending time with his master's friends. He feels these interactions expand his knowledge and virtue. Gulliver thinks negatively of his friends and family back home, regarding them as Yahoos with slightly better speech and manners than those on the island. He turns away from his own reflection "in horror and detestation" and attempts to adopt Houyhnhnm manners of speaking and gesturing.

Although Gulliver is happy and working to fit in—and his master's family accepts him—one morning the master tells Gulliver that the general assembly is offended by Gulliver's presence in his home. The master has been ordered to make Gulliver live as the other Yahoos in service to the Houyhnhnms, in a kennel, or Gulliver must return to his own homeland. Gulliver collapses with the emotional weight of this news, but when he recovers he decides to build a small boat to take him from the island. The construction takes two months, and then Gulliver departs the island with much sadness for himself and his Houyhnhnm family.

Analysis

Gulliver has internalized the Houyhnhnm attitude toward Yahoos to the point that he exhibits self-loathing for his own body and appearance. Where he once felt the need to defend his home country, he now feels contempt for England and for his friends and family there. Gulliver's efforts, however, are not sufficient to make the Houyhnhnms accept him. The depth of the Houyhnhnms' prejudice against the Yahoos becomes abundantly clear in the sentence the assembly hands down for Gulliver. Even though he has been presented as an example of a superior Yahoo, and even though he lives comfortably beside his master's family and has adopted the ways of the Houyhnhnm as completely as he can, he cannot be allowed to continue in his current place. This decision could be because the Houyhnhnms detest the Yahoos so completely, or Gulliver could represent a threat to the order of the island and to the Houyhnhnms' own prejudices. If one Yahoo can be civilized and treated as part of the family, other Houyhnhnms might begin doing the same.

The pressure for Gulliver's master to conform to his society's demands is tremendous. The entire family cares for Gulliver, but they must get him out of their house as quickly as possible. The neighbors are pressing the master every day to carry out the assembly's order. The master makes some concession in allowing Gulliver two months to build a boat, as the order actually demanded Gulliver be made to swim from the island, which amounts to a death sentence and throws a different light on Gulliver's high opinion of the Houyhnhnms as rational, benevolent beings.

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