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Gulliver's Travels

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Discusses the growth of Gulliver's madness in Book IV of Gulliver's Travels.... More...
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Paper Abstract:
Discusses the growth of Gulliver's madness in Book IV, the final book of Jonathan Swift's satirical novel, Gulliver's Travels. Danger of trying to live by pure ideals. Gulliver's rejection by the Houyhnhnms.

Paper Introduction:
Gulliver\'s Descent into Madness Literary critic Raymond Bentman suggests that the final Book ofJonathan Swift\'s Gulliver\'s Travels dramatizes the danger confronted bythose who would try to live by pure ideals in a formal satire which is mademore compelling by the fact that Gulliver himself begins a descent intomadness In this essay the progress of Gulliver\'s loss of mentalstability will be explored It will be argued that the madness experiencedby Gulliver is the result of his own struggle to understand why he isrejected

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Gulliver tries to be somewhat rational butsoon stops, not as a result of any human's action. The problem is that in creatingthese creatures, Swift has established an ideal that lacks any and allfaults or flaws. "Satiric Structure and Tone in the Conclusion of Gulliver's Travels." Studies in English Literature, 1971, 11(3), pp. It is thus thathe meets the noble Houyhnhnms, who are the complete antithesis of the human-like Yahoos. 535-548.Crane, R.S. The horses are described by Swift (217) as noble creatures that areorderly and rational, acute and judicious. It is his own inferiority as well as that of his wife andchildren which gives him pain and causes him to behave in a manner thatrepresents mental instability. Greenberg, Editor. These creatures are not only the antithesis of all thatis human, they are unlikely at best. In this essay, the progress of Gulliver's loss of mentalstability will be explored. For example, when Gulliver meets the Portuguese sailors and DonPedro, he has a good model for behavior, the behavior of the Houyhnhnm,when he first met Gulliver. Book IV of Gulliver's Travels is satire at its most ironic andpointed. As Swift (271) writes, upon returning to England and his home,Gulliver finds it impossible to adjust: "As soon as I entered the house,my wife took me in her arms and kissed me, at which, having not been usedto the touch of that odious animal for so many years, I fell in a swoon foralmost an hour." In fact, so intolerant is Gulliver of his necessaryconnection to the Yahoos that it was years after his return before he couldeven tolerate being in the same room as his wife and children. The madness - if it is indeed that - is the direct consequenceof Gulliver's growing realization that it is impossible to behave like aHouyhnhnm while living among a race of human beings who are largelyunprepared for such unrealistically high ideals. It is only after Gulliverbecomes accustomed to the brilliant light of a fully rational world that hebecomes blinded by the darkness, much like those individuals who wereforced to return to the darkness of Plato's cave (Bentman, 538). Clearly, Gulliver has reached a point at which he cannot toleratehuman company and longs to be like the noble Houyhnhnms who feel that he isinferior. Here, meeting Don Pedro, heencounters an exceptionally good man who cares for his wound and provideshim with food and drink (Swift, 269). Gulliver's Descent into Madness Literary critic Raymond Bentman (535) suggests that the final Book ofJonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels dramatizes the danger confronted bythose who would try to live by pure ideals in a formal satire which is mademore compelling by the fact that Gulliver himself begins a descent intomadness. He also suggests thatGulliver's irrational behavior results from his pride in thinking such anideal is easily obtainable. By the time he meetshis wife, "all traces of Houyhnhnm-like behavior have disappeared. 37-38.Swift, Jonathan. Forexample, Swift (26 ) writes that Gulliver "had no occasion of bribing,flattering, or pimping to procure the favor of any great man or his minion. He savedhis sanity, so to speak, by purchasing two horses with whom he wouldconverse "at least four hours every day" (Swift, 272). Such creatures are marginally able totolerate being around the Yahoos and it is important to recognize thatGulliver is viewed as little more than a somewhat more intelligent Yahoothan those ordinarily encountered by the Houyhnhnms. To the dismay of Gulliver,these great creatures equate him with the despicable Yahoos. Bentman (54 ) believes that Book IV is Swift's most telling criticismof the society in which he lived. New York: Bantam Books. I wanted no fence against fraud or oppression; here was neither positionto destroy my body, nor lawyer to ruin my fortune." In other words, thesociety created by the Houyhnhnms is so reasonable, so rational, and soutterly devoid of the common corruption that permeates human society thathis expulsion from this world causes Gulliver to experience mental illness. ReferencesBentman, Raymond. Gulliver's reaction is to remain"silent and sullen" because he was "ready to faint at the very smell of himand his men" (Swift, 269). "The Rationale of the Fourth Voyage." Gulliver's Travels: An Annotated Text with Critical Essays. Swift (259) makes it clear that during the time he lived with thisnoble race, Gulliver improved significantly in terms of his character. However, this is satire and one should notmake too much of this "madness." It is clear that the goal of Swift inthis particular book of Gulliver's Travels was to demonstrate his owncontempt for his fellow men and to criticize the failings of human beings. In fact, Gulliver is seen by Ehrenpreis (39) as representative of thechaos that is brought on by a man who tries to live by impossiblestandards. However, the idealized world that isoccupied by the Houyhnhnms is not one in which human beings would truly becomfortable. 3 6-3 7.Ehrenpreis, Irvin. These creatures appear to be lacking in terms of free willand it is this particular characteristic that makes human beings unique. The master with whom he lives in this country is actually exhorted bythe assembly to either rid himself of Gulliver or to employ him in the sameway as other Yahoos were employed (Swift, 262). Indeed, Irvin Ehrenpreis (37) considers Swift's creation ofthese creatures to represent an ideal that is not necessarily worthpursuing because it is dangerous and undesirable. It is this that leads toGulliver's expulsion from this putative paradise and which causes him toset out in a canoe on a voyage that leads to his being attacked by nativesand then rescued by the Portuguese ship. TheHouyhnhnms, we recall, could bear the company of a Yahoo when his presenceserved a rational purpose" (Bentman, 537-538). It will be argued that the madness experiencedby Gulliver is the result of his own struggle to understand why he isrejected by the Houyhnhnms because of his resemblance to the beastlyYahoos. It is thisassociation that makes Gulliver conscious of his own imperfection and thefact that he, as a human being, is unlikely to achieve the idealsestablished by the Houyhnhnms whose own name "signifies a horse, and in itsetymology, the perfection of nature (Swift, 225)." From thinking thatthese horses are beasts of burden to recognizing them as superior creatureswho can and should be emulated, Gulliver begins to lose touch with reality(Crane, 3 6). As Swift's (213) narrative in Book IV suggests, Gulliver has left hiswife and children to become the captain of a ship called the Adventure.During this journey, Gulliver is held a prisoner by mutineers on his shipand forced to set out in a small boat in search of land. It is this attitude and his subsequent effortsto explain his life with the Houyhnhnms that leads Don Pedro and the otherPortuguese sailors to consider Gulliver to be mad. New York: 1961, pp. Crane (3 7) says that Gulliver's odd behavior is the result of hisrecognition of the contrast between the human world in which he must liveand the land that is occupied by the Houyhnhnms. Gulliver's Travels and Other Writings. Robert A. Even when he encounters good men, Gulliver finds them less ideal thanhis much valued Houyhnhnms (Bentman, 538). "The Meaning of Gulliver's Last Voyage." Review of English Literature, 1962, 3, pp.

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