Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Part IV ENGL 203 Dr. Fike
Next Time • Midterm Examination: • Terms and other details—define and connect • Quotations—identify, analyze, connect • Essay related to periodicity—argue for a position • What to study: • Your quizzes • Quotations we discussed in class • Thematic connections between texts and how the same theme receives different treatment in different periods.
Note Well • The head note is particularly good this time. • Periodicity: • The rise of the novel in the 18th century • We are continuing to talk about surface vs. depth. • And now today we will talk directly about reason (think “the Age of Reason”).
What of Gulliver? • In “A Voyage to Lilliput,” Gulliver says, “My Father had a small estate in Nottinghamshire; I was the third of five sons.” • The “small estate” in Nottinghamshire makes him a member of the middle class living in the middle of England. • As “the third of five sons,” he is the middle son. • Question: What sort of point follows from these details? (See next slide.)
A Possible Answer • Gulliver is a kind of Mr. Average, an 18th century Everyman, a sort of mean between extremes. • He represents humanity in his responses to what he encounters. • He is civilization’s representative.
Part I: G is shipwrecked in a storm. Part II: He is left behind by his shipmates. Part III: He is set adrift by pirates. Part IV: He is abandoned by mutineers. Visits Lilliput. Meets the Brobdingnagians. Visits Laputa, a floating island, whose academics oppress the people below in Balnibarbi. Visits the Houyhnhnms. What pattern emerges from G’s journeys?
Pronunciation • Houyhnhnms = hwinnums
Possible Answer • Page 1786/240, note 7: “There is a clear progression from natural causes to deliberate evil.” • “The accidents by which G arrives in the several countries…are varied…to keep pace with his growing realization of the defects of human nature” (Arthur Case). • But as Part IV opens, G is not yet ready to admit defects in the human character. In fact, he has not really learned much of anything in the earlier sections of the book. Why is this?
G’s Blind Spot • The Lilliputians are petty and mean. • [Factoid: Lilliputt: A small, mean Norwegian football player (6-8 years old)!] • Against the Lilliputians’ shortcoming, G naturally feels reasonably satisfied with himself. • He fails to see that he and England share the Lilliputians’ condition to some degree. • In this respect, his experiences on Lilliput teach him nothing.
G vs. the Lilliputians and the Brobdingnagians • Lilliputians: aggressive, nasty, mean, petty • Brobdingnagians: “large-souled, generous, with intellectual curiosity and an acute sense of justice,” with “perfect moral attitudes” (Peter Schakel) • POINT: Brobdingnagians:G::G:Lilliputians Brobdingnagians>G>Lilliputians
Development of This Point • Size: • The Lilliputians are 6” high. • G is 6’ high: 12 times bigger than the Lilliputians. • The Brobdingnagians are giants: they are assumed to be bigger than G in the same proportion that he is bigger than the Lilliputians.
More Development of This Point • Moral capacity: • G is not as culpable as the Lilliputians • Nor is he as magnanimous as the Brobdingnagians.
The Point • G is a mean between extremes: he is a “man in the middle,” as they say. • He is unlike the nasty Lilliputians in character, but his actions fall short of the standard set by the Brobdingnagian King. • Physically and morally, then, he is unlike both peoples: • B’s > G > L’s in terms of both size and moral development.
G’s Political Orientation • Politically, though, G resembles the Lilliputians insofar as he is a representative of the civilization from which he comes (see his description of England to his “master” in Part IV). • But G is equal to the Brobdingnagians in capacity. See next slide.
Rationis Capax • The capacity for rationality: We humans have this capacity but often fail to live up to our potential. • Our potential makes us like the Brobdingnagians. • But our actions make us like the Lilliputians. • Man is in the middle: That is the kind of dynamic that emerges from the first part of the novel.
Discussion Questions • Where do you think G falls on a continuum between Yahoo (total passion) and Houyhnhnm (total reason)? Find passages that support your position. See especially 1814/268. • One would think that the H’s are an ideal worthy of emulation. Is that true or not? In what ways are they less than ideal? See pages 1815-19/269-73. • What does G do with his realization? Let’s think, in particular, about his relationship with Pedro de Mendez and his reactions once he reaches home. • How does GT illustrate the distinction we have been developing between surface and depth? Think especially about what G does after he returns home.
1. Where do you think G falls on a continuum between Yahoo (total passion) and Houyhnhnm (total reason)? Find passages that support your position. • Swift’s intention, expressed in a letter to Pope in 1725: “I have got Materials Towards a Treatis [GT] proving the falsity of that Definition animal rationale; and to show it could be only rationis capax.” • Note all the places where G agrees with the H’s that he has only a limited capacity for reason.
Gulliver as Yahoo • G’s visit to the H nation makes him aware of his own shortcomings—and aware of civilization’s. • He realizes, in short, that he is a Yahoo in a hilarious episode on 1814/268—“She embraced me after a most fulsome manner….” • Gulliver now thinks that he is a Yahoo. Is he right?
The Truth: G Is Half Right • H’s > G > Y in much the same way as B’s > G > L’s. • G = physically and emotionally similar to the Y’s. • G = capable of rationality as are the H’s; he shares the potential that they have maximized. • POINT: G is both Yahoo and Houyhnhnm, but he is not fully one or the other. Again, he is a “man in the middle.”
Why Humans Are Worse Than Yahoos • Y’s are an undesirable extreme, and human beings are even more culpable than Y’s: • Y’s act according to their nature. • Civilized humans compound those natural faults with misuse of reason. • Examples: • 1802/256: “But when a creature….” • 1809/263: “…he looked upon us,” etc.
Another Example • 1813/267, last par. of Chapter Seven: “I expected every Moment, that my Master would accuse the Yahoos of those unnatural Appetites in both Sexes, so common among us. But Nature it seems hath not been so expert a Schoolmistress; and these politer Pleasures are entirely the Productions of Art and Reason, on our Side of the Globe.”
The Point • Civilized humans use reason to debase their already debased natural state.
2. One would think that the H’s are an ideal worthy of emulation. Is that true or not? In what ways are they less than ideal? • G resembles the B King in his capacity for morality and the H’s in his capacity for reason. But whereas the B King is a positive figure, the H’s are not entirely positive. See pages 1815-19/269-73: • They practice slavery. • There is no romance in relationships. • They have no feeling for their children. • Their assembly contemplates the genocide and castration of the Y’s (1817-18/271-72). • They seem void of feeling when friends and family members die (1819/273). • They use the Y’s the way the persona of “A Modest Proposal” advocates using children (1823-24/277-78). G does the same when he uses his canoe. See also the repair for his shoes.
What Swift Does • The traditional distinction was this: • Human = the rational animal • Horse = the irrational animal • Swift switches this: now the horse is the rational animal, and the H’s become a caricature of reason in the extreme. • Reasonlessness (Y’s) and pure reason (H’s) are both undesirable extremes. But pure reason seems less dangerous than pure passion.
A Critic’s View • “Though Houyhnhnm life in toto is not an ideal for humans, within their lives and society are qualities and attitudes desirable for human life and society. Humans could learn from the Houyhnhnms, for example, to be moderate and composed and to order family and community life in a more simple and sensible way than it is now ordered” (Schakel).
The H’s Positive Qualities • Control, order, truth. • 1815/269: friendship and benevolence. • 1816/270: temperance, industry, exercise, cleanliness. • 1831/285: “honour, justice, truth, temperance, public spirit, fortitude, chastity, friendship, benevolence, and fidelity.”
Summary • G is part Yahoo and part Houyhnhnm. • He is drawn toward each, but each extreme is undesirable. • So the Age of Reason gives rise to GT, which in turn critiques extreme rationality. • And Part IV is an allegory of the human condition. • Think Great Chain of Being. See next slide.
Hamlet 2.2.304-08 “What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals.”
3. What does G do with his realization? Let’s think, in particular, about his relationship with Pedro de Mendez and his reactions once he reaches home. • Don Pedro is a test of G’s judgment. He thinks that the captain is an animal, and G therefore does not trust him. • He is unmoved by the good captain. • DP is normal; not to embrace him means that G is abnormal.
4. How does GT illustrate the distinction we have been developing between surface and depth? Think especially about what G does after he returns home. • G is drawn toward the H’s because their reason appeals to him, but he is held back by his physical dissimilarity and his feelings of inferiority. • But instead of emulating their positive qualities (depth), which he could emulate, he instead tries to become a horse (surface). He imitates their speech and walk; he lauds the H’s for reason but does not properly implement it in his own life. • G fails to recognize that not all humans are Yahoos. DP, for example, is not a Yahoo. • In terms of supposed superiority: • G > DP::H’s > G
More on Surface vs. Depth • G cannot even stand the sight and smell of his own children—or the thought of his wife. • When he left, his wife was pregnant; now he cannot bear the fact that he has added to the Yahoo race. • He cannot even stand his own reflection in the mirror: 1821/275. See also 1802/256 (“reflection”) and 1833/287 (“my figure in a glass”). • POINT: A mirror ought to give one a clear image of oneself, but G’s reaction to his own image in the mirror indicates that he does not understand himself.
Connection to A Tale of a Tub • Because of G’s revulsion for the Y’s, he comes to hate his own species. • He thus becomes like the narrator of A Tale of a Tub who fixes his attention on the surface and fails to recognize and act upon the reality that is hidden beneath. • See the head note: 1783/237, the end of full par. 2: “Having come belatedly to see below the surfaces he once unquestioningly accepted, Gulliver has not achieved discrimination; instead, he becomes devoted to a new surface.”
Conclusion • Swift targets G as well as humanity. • G tries so hard to avoid viewing himself as a Yahoo that he becomes a horse. • He has, as Ross puts it, “gone off the deep end and cannot recover himself from the nightmare view of man.” • Swift’s satire is against: • Gulliver (or anyone like him), for an absurd response to the discovery of what seems to be the true nature of human beings. • All persons, for their meanness, self-pollution, and pride. END