Books

Gulliver’s Travel’s, A Satire: (4) We are an Unreasonable Species

houyhnhnm-sittingThe final part of Gulliver’s Travels takes place in the unnamed land of the Houyhnhnms (pronounced “hwin-nums”) which is the dominant race. The Houyhnhnms hold contempt for the Yahoos–a species of monkey-humans that have little to no intelligence, are obsessed with the accumulation of shiny things, uncontrollably libidinous, and fling there poop.

Did mention that the Houyhnhnms are horses?

Oddly enough, Gulliver finds a way to make peace with the Houyhnhnms, despite his Yahoo-like appearance, learns their language, and develops a hatred for Yahoos and all mankind.

This part of Gulliver’s Travels is supposed to satirize utopia and dystopia.

Well, I don’t buy it.

houyhnhnm-yahoos

Granted, I don’t want to be a Yahoo any more than Gulliver does, but I don’t think I’d like being a Houyhnhnm either. For one thing, “Yahoo” literally means “bad” or “evil” in Houyhnhnm language, whereas “Houyhnhnm” means “the Perfection of Nature.” Pretentious much?

It gets even worse when Gulliver’s Master explains how our body structure is completely irrational. How walking on two legs is dumb, the need for clothes is ridiculous, and why cover your junk if nature gave it to you?

Well we have opposable thumbs, you dumb horses.

Not to mention that despite Houyhnhnms are supposedly a race exist on Reason alone, they are pretty dumb in some respects. I mean, they confirm Gulliver is a Yahoo when he’s bathing in a river and a female Yahoo starts groping him. Dogs are perverts when they want to be—that doesn’t make them human or us dogs.

Also, while their lifestyle may be “reasonable”, it certainly doesn’t seem fun or happy. They reproduce and organize families such that a male and a female have one male and female child, as if they are breeding their replacements for when they die. The male and female are paired up such that one is strong and the other is pretty, so their children are strong an pretty. And while this maintains the population nicely, there is no love.

I can’t imagine being without one of my two siblings, or trading a second daughter for a son. I can’t imagine not simply asking for a replacement when a child dies.

And worst of all, I can’t imagine having no identity. Houyhnhnms don’t have names. Gulliver simply calls his host his Master and his protector by his breed, a Sorrel Nag. And that’s why Houyhnhms are so “perfect”: it does not contain any humanity, it is simply a living machine. It regenerates itself, and acts only as logic dictates.

I wonder why Gulliver finds this so agreeable. Its obvious he prefers the Houyhnhnm society to humans and all their pesky caring.

Which brings me to the most gruesome image: Gulliver’s boat is made of Yahoo.

I don’t know what’s more disturbing about this: that Gulliver made a boat of pseudo-human skin, of the indifference he treats it with. He never describes killing and skinning the Yahoos. He’s just like, “So I made a boat of Yahoo skin ’cause it’s waterproof, and where that didn’t work I used their fat. Oh, a since adult skin is too thick, I just skinned some kids for the sail because its much thinner. Want to go for a ride?”

ugh. Ugh. UGH. What is the matter with this man? (Actually, that’s coming in Part 5 tomorrow.)

All I know is, I’d rather be a civilized Yahoo than a Houyhnhnm machine, no matter how unreasonable it is.

“For, who can read the Virtues I have mentioned in the glorious Houyhnhnms, without being ashamed of his own Vices, when he considers himself as the reasoning, governing Animal of his Country?” -Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels 

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