” (Knowles 128). These are qualities Yahoos-and Englishmen-cannot grasp. They will do anything and everything to destroy others if they believe it will benefit themselves. They are unable to live with trust and equality. But Knowles points out that while the Houyhnhnms “response to Gulliver’s recount of England” reinforces Swift’s satire, Houyhnhnms utopian ideal itself is questionable. Their inability to understand other points of view, their naiveti?? , ignorance, and even their lack of passion, make the Houyhnhnms themselves “an additional object of satire” (Knowles 131).
Like Knowles, I believe that the Houyhnhnms were the dominant satirical device in this section of Gulliver’s Travels. They are the ones who were humanlike creatures in an animal’s body. They had the characteristics of the “perfect” human, while the human-appearing Yahoos were mere brutes. The Houyhnhnms were the reasonable and rational creatures that the Yahoos could possibly become. But because of their greed, and desire for power and money and the inability to trust each other the Yahoos-Swift’s stand-in for Englishmen-remained beasts of burden and the lowest grade of manual laborer.
Government and laws and other rules were needed to regulate society when people were unable to regulate themselves. I also agree with Knowles’ questioning of how “utopian” Houyhnhnm Land really was. Men cannot be Houyhnhnms-men have passion. Passion and emotion are just as necessary to human nature as reason. Of course we can agree with Swift that man needs to control his emotions and exercise his rationality, but are the Houyhnhnms really an appropriate role model? Knowles points out that the Houyhnhnms stoicism was “something of a travesty” and “simplistic” (Knowles 128).
They have neither virtue nor vice; they have no passions to surrender. I am unsure of whether I agree or disagree with Knowles’ treatment of Houyhnhnm utopia. Knowles is not content with comparing Gulliver’s Travels with More, but also tries to tie this section of the novel to Plato, Plutarch, Deism, and “the Christian doctrine of the unregenerate-those incapable of spiritual rebirth and renewal” (Knowles 128). I confess that his analysis becomes too complex for me to render agreement or disagreement.
But I feel that he and I do agree that, beyond the satire, Houyhnhnm society was an unrealistic goal for Englishmen to pursue. And, although the Houyhnhnms live in a place that was far less corrupt than Gulliver’s, their world was certainly not free of corruption or its own form of racism and eugenics. I also agree with Knowles’ analysis that the Houyhnhnms were not the only factor of satire in the novel. I believe that other things also played a role. Gulliver, having seen that the Yahoos in many ways resemble himself, also plays a role as satire.
It allows Gulliver to point out all the flaws of his fellow ‘Yahoos’ in Europe, without seeing that the flaws are really his as well. Knowles cites Steward Lacasece, who noted that “the Yahoos illustrate six or seven deadly sins-covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, sloth-while Gulliver embodies the seventh, pride, by the end of the work” (Knowles 131). Certainly, though Knowles spends only a relatively small part of his treatise directly analyzing this section of the novel, he does an excellent job. He explores the various degrees and devices of satire employed by Swift.
In some of his concluding pages Knowles focuses on some of the ironies of Houyhnhnm superiority. The Houyhnhnms have great difficulty in deciding whether or not to banish Gulliver. What is his status in their rigid social structure? They are not capable of seeing beyond their own two-dimensional country.
Perhaps the most telling incident, a “symbol of Houyhnhnm limitation,” is when Gulliver spots a tiny island in the distance through his small telescope, but the sorrel Houyhnhnm who has befriended him sees only a “cloud”. He “had no Conception of a Country beside his own” (Knowles 140).Knowles’ conclusion, of course, is that Houyhnhnm “myopia” was, in some ways, even worse than mankind’s.
Work Cited Knowles, Ronald. Twayne’s Masterworks Studies: Gulliver’s Travels The Politics of Satire. Twayne Publishers. New York, 1996. Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver’s Travels – Part IV (A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms) The Norton anthology of World Masterpieces: The Western Tradition. 7th ed. Vol. 2: Literature of Western Culture Since the Renaissance. Eds. Sarah Lawall and Maynared Mack. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. , 1999. 236-281.