The satirical novel Gulliver's Travels is a unique piece of work as it was written not to entertain the readers. This novel was a kind of an indictment of the society and it was highly popular among scientists, politicians, philosophers - those people who were accused by the writer (“Critical Essays Swift's Satire in Gulliver's Travels”).
The tone of the Swift’s novel changes from outright derision to mild wit and, generally, the whole book is penetrated with ridicule. The writer used satire as the main weapon against flaws of society he lived in and flaws of humanity in general.
In Part IV of Gulliver’s Travels Swift tried to use the most offensive satire on mankind. He invented new creatures Yahoos who impersonated human beings. The very first description of the Yahoos is repulsive. The protagonist Gulliver sees them as abominable creatures, and he is horrified on noticing that they have a lot of physical resemblance with his own race (“What are the objects of Swift’s satire in Gulliver’s Travels?”, 2010). Gulliver learns about the habits of the Yahoos. These creatures seem to have much in common with an ordinary human being. The Yahoos adore shining stones, they like eating and drinking much. Also, he learns about a lascivious behavior of local women.
Swift contraposed the Yahoos to the Houyhnhnms - benevolent and noble animals. To the Gulliver’s point of view, they are ideal creatures who live in a ‘utopian’ world. Gulliver loves them because they lead a simple life and are always governed by reason.
The Yahoos are constantly contrasted to the Houyhnhnms. The horses hold special meetings in order to discuss the difficulties the population faces with. Also, they do not indulge in sexual intercourse for pleasure and strictly regulate their population. It seems, that Swift wished to give the qualities to the horses that he expected to find in human beings (“What are the objects of Swift’s satire in Gulliver’s Travels?”, 2010). The most important quality for Swift was rationality, but human beings did not value it enough.
Swift describes the man-like Yahoos as the creatures with the lust for power and wealth, but they suffer from the distracting effects of intemperance, envy, malice and lust. The Houyhnhnms are so high moral that they even do not understand these concepts. Swift wants to say that the lust for money and power changes the way people understand what is right and what is wrong. One of the most serious attacks Swift makes at humans is that people have to lie in order to get what they want. Lying was a common thing for human beings, but for the Houyhnhnms, it is totally foreign (“Discuss satire in Jonathan Swift's novel Gulliver's Travels - Part IV”).
It is an ideal satirical method to represent horses (Houyhnhnms) as being more advanced mentally than human beings (Yahoos). That is a bitter criticism of the human race. The Yahoos are described as unteachable, mischievous and brutal creatures, while the Houyhnhnms are ideal and have such high morals that they even do not have a word in their language for lying (“What are the objects of Swift’s satire in Gulliver’s Travels?”, 2010).
Gulliver becomes a friend of the master Houyhnhnm and tells him about the events that happen in his own country. He tells that people wage wars because of the king’s ambitions and their ministers’ corruption. He describes numerous weapons that people in his country created in order to destruct the buildings and kill other people. Also, Gulliver tells about the dishonorable lawsuits that are common for England and about the wickedness of judges. Finally, he tells that people destruct themselves by gambling and drinking, and some people commit such crimes as sodomy, robbery, murder, and rape.
When Swift criticizes the political life, he describes the evils that are common in any country of the world. For instance, Gulliver tells that a prime minister is a person who does not feel anything that a normal person feels. He is free from love and hatred, joy and grief, pity and anger. He is constantly thinking about wealth, titles, and power. Swift criticizes the whole society saying that a lot of people live by stealing, begging, pimping, forging, cheating, and whoring. The writer is outraged with these sins so much that he uses not just satire, but invective and denunciation (“What are the objects of Swift’s satire in Gulliver’s Travels?”, 2010).
Swift produced a great satirical book that has become classic and does not lose its actuality with time. His works can be compared to the Shakespeare’s dramas that also describe the nature of people that never change. The majority of people are always followed by primitive wishes, they envy rich people because it is prestigious to be rich. Few people envy smart and kind-hearted people because such traits are less valued. Moreover, to become rich and live a carefree life some people are ready to commit crimes, as people did in times when Swift lived. People who have high social status and power in their arms use this power for their own purposes forgetting about the interests of other people. Reading the book that describes the society that existed a few centuries ago, we see the description of the modern society.
Swift gave us corrosive satire and comic satire. Sometimes his words about human irrationality sound indignant, sometimes witty thanks to his proper usage of irony. Though the book may make you wish to smile, it is clear that the author was in desperation and he saw the mankind in dark colors. But though the book may make a disheartening and depressing effect on the reader, the Swift’s satire on humanity is considered a masterpiece.
Works Cited List
“Critical Essays Swift's Satire in Gulliver's Travels”. cliffsnotes.com. Web. Accessed 11 February 2016 at http://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/g/gullivers-travels/critical-essays/swifts-satire-in-gullivers-travels
“Discuss satire in Jonathan Swift's novel Gulliver's Travels - Part IV”. markedbyteachers.com. Web. Accessed 11 February 2016 at http://www.markedbyteachers.com/university-degree/linguistics-classics-and-related-subjects/discuss-satire-in-jonathan-swift-s-novel-gulliver-s-travels-part-iv.html
“What are the objects of Swift’s satire in Gulliver’s Travels?” neoenglishsystem.blogspot.com. 2010. Web. Accessed 11 February 2016 at http://neoenglishsystem.blogspot.com/2010/11/what-are-objects-of-swifts-satire-in.html