Gulliver's Travels


Jonathan Swift

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Gulliver's Travels: Book 4, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

This horse leads Gulliver to a house and Gulliver readies the toys and jewelry he always carries to give to native peoples. As he’s lead in, Gulliver keeps expecting to see a human voice and wonders what kind of man has all horses for servants. Still, he sees no people, only a number of horses sitting neatly in clean rooms.
Gulliver, as a human Englishman, is operating from the perspective that every civil society must be organized by human beings. He enters prepared to greet human inhabitants with human gifts.
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Gulliver observes the power dynamics between the horses and sees the gray horse is the master horse. He seems to speak with the others about Gulliver, frequently repeating the word Yahoo. He leads Gulliver out behind the house where some of the filthy ugly animals Gulliver first encountered are tied up eating raw meat. The gray horse has Gulliver stand beside one for comparison and Gulliver realizes to his horror that the animal is actually a human being (albeit a very degenerate, wild, and rude one). The horses refer to the animal as Yahoos and Gulliver sees they think he is a Yahoo too, except for the presence of his clothes, which the horses seem to think are a part of his body.
This scene juxtaposes the perspectives of Gulliver, the reader, and the horses. Gulliver and the reader, who has seen everything through Gulliver’s eyes, consider the grotesque animals he met on the beach to be beasts. Yet the horses have all along seen no essential difference between Gulliver and the Yahoos. As they present their perspective, Gulliver suddenly realizes the errors of his own view—though the Yahoos are disgusting and crude, they are in fact humans.
Perspective Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The master horse tries to feed Gulliver the meat the Yahoos eat but Gulliver is disgusted and gestures for milk. The horse gives Gulliver milk and allows him to stand beside him while he and the other horses eat together in a civilized fashion indoors. They eat cold oats, except for a very old visiting horse, who has them warm. Gulliver shows them that his gloves are removable, which pleases the horses. They teach him more words. Later, Gulliver accepts some oats to eat and beats them into a cake. He expresses to the reader that, during his time in this land, he sometimes missed meat and salt, but that he got used to eating oat cakes.
This exchange is a perspective-widening one for both Gulliver and the horses. Whereas Gulliver previously considered civility to be a human characteristic, he is now witnessing dignity and civilized behavior among horses. Whereas the horses previously considered humans to be carnivorous beasts, they are now witnessing a human being refusing meat and acting politely.
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Come evening, the master horse lodges Gulliver in a place behind “the house” but separate from “the stable of the Yahoos.”
The position is significant—in this society, Gulliver is situated in between the beastly humans and the genteel horses.
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