The novel, Gulliver’s Travels, is just that, a novel about the main character, Gulliver who goes on many journeys. The part of this book that brings out the reader’s interest is Gulliver’s character and the ways his character changes as the story progresses. He begins as a naive Englishman and by the end of the book he has a strong hatred for the human race. Gulliver shows that his adventures have taught him that a simple life, one without the complexities and weaknesses of human society, may be best, but the simple life he longed for should not have been the route he took.
Before leaving his hometown in England, Gulliver was an open-minded character. His first journey lead him to the land of the Lilliputians, who were relatively hospitable to him, providing him with food and drink. There, in this foreign land, Gulliver noticed that the Lilliputians were in war with a rebel nation. The reason these two nations were in battle with each other was because they disagreed on something as simple as which side of an egg, the larger or the smaller, should be cracked. Gulliver thought that this was a ridiculous situation and that this was not a reason to be fighting.
Although he didn’t agree with this war between the nations, he did agree, out of courtesy, to help defend the Lilliputians against their enemies. After this, Gulliver was seen as a hero to the Lilliputians. Gulliver was then asked by the Lilliputian emperor to retrieve the military ships of the enemy, but Gulliver refuses to do so because he felt that it was not necessary to take the enemies into slavery or injustice. Gulliver argued and protested in Part I, Chapter V, pg. 66 “I would never be an instrument of bringing a free and brave people into slavery.
Mind you that these are Gulliver’s words, his reason for not taking the rebel nation captive. In the land of the Lilliupt, Gulliver is physically taller than the rest of the Lilliputian population. He is far-sided, while the Lilliputians are near-sided, implying that Gulliver is able to see deeper into situations than the Lilliputians and is more open-minded about seeing the bigger picture of the fighting while the Lilliputians continue to fight over something miniscule. Gulliver’s ability to see far-sided was evident and when the Lilliputians turned against him, deciding to punish him, they wanted to blind him.
By doing this, Gulliver would have been unable to see, leading him to lose his open-mindedness, which would make him less powerful than the Lilliputians. Luckily for Gulliver, he managed to escape being blinded; at least for the time being. On his second journey, Gulliver visited the island where the Houyhnhnms and Yahoos resided. On this island the first people that Gulliver saw were the Yahoos but was first to talk to the Houyhnhnms. While speaking to the Houyhnhnms, Gulliver realized how intelligent the horse-like specie was.
The Houyhnhnms initially thought Gulliver, because of the physical appearance, was a Yahoo, who happened superior to the rest of them. On this island, the Houyhnhnms were the dominant species while the Yahoos were the less governing and the more savage of the two groups. They were said to be flesh-eating animals that were greedy and selfish. Gulliver made the connection that the Yahoos were like the mankind. Though the human race has laws, government and art, their natural instincts are to be greedy and self-striving.
While speaking with the Houyhnhnms of the relations of the English, Gulliver begins to realize how much he dislikes his own people. Gulliver speaks of the English Revolution and the war with France. In speaking of this, he begins to refer to the English people as Yahoos. Gulliver and his master, one of the Houyhnhnms, speak more of what distinguishes the Yahoos and the Houyhnhnms. Becoming more intrigued by these conversations, Gulliver wants to see the compelling details for himself. He asks to be put among the Yahoos and notices first hand that they are physically strong but lack reason and bravery.
Gulliver is now able to make a definite connection between the physicality of the Yahoos and mankind. ” This was matter of diversion to my master and his family, as well as of mortification to myself. For now I could no longer deny that I was a real Yahoo in every limb and feature” (Part IV, Chapter VIII, pg. 252). After this experience, Gulliver’s change in character becomes more evident. He obviously switches from being open-minded as on his first journey to being a close-minded follower of the Houyhnhnms.
Gulliver accounts why he admires the Houyhnhnms so much, saying, “As these noble Houyhnhnms are endowed by nature with a general disposition to all virtues, and have no conceptions or ideas of what is evil in a rational creature, so their grand maxim is to cultivate reason, and to be wholly governed by it” (Part IV, Chapter VII, pg. 252). When the Houyhnhnms debate whether or not to extinguish the Yahoos from the earth, Gulliver interrupts. He suggested that the Yahoos should be castrated, where they could no longer reproduce and eventually die out.
Gulliver’s actions and thoughts on the situation contradict what he believed about slavery and injustice on his first journey. The fact that he refers to one of the Houyhnhnms as his mater, make him a slave, which also goes against his initial ideals of social injustice. Straying away from his previous beliefs and customs, Gulliver begins to adapt to the Houyhnhnms’ culture, one that he doesn’t realize is not so perfect, rather a bit corrupt. Friendship and benevolence is what the Houyhnhnms based their culture, yet they have no emotions and no form of writing.
Although these traits create simplicity in the Houyhnhnms’ society, Gulliver needs to realize that mankind inevitably possess these traits. After being on the island for many years, the Houyhnhnms never seem to fully accept Gulliver, and eventually they evict him from the island with only a canoe. Through these ill-mannered actions from the Houyhnhnms, Gulliver remains true to them and continues to believe in their values. Now leaving the island with a strong hatred for mankind, Gulliver is on his own in the world. He does not want to return to his family or human civilization.
While on the canoe, Gulliver sees a ship. On this ship is Don Pedro and his crew. They see Gulliver and, in the same way as the Lilliputians and the Houyhnhnms, they offered their hospitality. Gulliver even recounts that “he was a very courteous and generous person” (Part IV, Chapter XI, pg. 269). They presented Gulliver with food and drink, but Gulliver didn’t allow himself to accept the kindness of the men. “I had compelled myself to tolerate the sight of Yahoos, and to converse with Don Pedro de Mendez: yet my memory and imaginations were perpetually filled with the virtues and ideas of those exalted Houyhnhnms.
And when I began to consider, that by copulating with one of the Yahoo species I had become a parent of more, it stuck me with the utmost shame, confusion and, horror” (Part IV, Chapter XI, pg. 271). The changes of Gulliver’s feelings about mankind eventually drove him mad. When he returned home to England, Gulliver reluctantly revisited his family. With everyone trying to make Gulliver feel welcome and back at home, Gulliver still felt like a stranger on his homeland. To make himself more comfortable, Gulliver bought horses to remind him of his only friends, the Houyhnhnms.
Gulliver said, ” My horses understand me tolerably well; I converse with them at least four hours every day” (Part IV, Chapter XII, pg. 272). Gulliver’s final words about his own people whom he abandoned are “I dwell the longer upon this subject from the desire I have to make the society of an English Yahoo by any means not insupportable; and therefore I here entreat those who have any tincture of this absurd vice, that they will not presume to appear in my sight” (Part IV, Chapter XII, pg. 7).
Gulliver began his journeys, to find wealth and returned with an entirely different view on life. Gulliver began his travels with an open-mind about his society and the different cultures that existed in the world. Being away from his people and in a foreign land, Gulliver adopted the way of the Houyhnhnms, who were a nation that were based on simplicity. The Houyhnhnms lacked many of the features that mankind had, and adjusting to the Houyhnhnms’ culture, Gulliver neglected his own.
He thought that a simple life would be better than the complex life he was use to, but this theory only led Gulliver to go mad, eventually replacing his family with horses, wishing to never have to deal with mankind again. This novel can be interpreted in many ways, as we noticed in class. I think that one thing the entire class could agree on was that Gulliver, like Don Quixote, drove himself into a fantasy land where, in Gulliver’s case, horses could hold a conversation.