Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels Book 4, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Gulliver summarizes the various discussions he had with the master horse over the course of two years, begging allowance for the “barbarous” English language’s inability “to do justice” to the master horse’s views.
Gulliver’s apology indicates his shifted perspective—he considers Houyhnhmn refinement superior to English language and culture.
Themes
Perspective Theme Icon
When Gulliver recounts the endless petty wars and unjustified violence among European states, the master horse reflects that, though such constant fighting is certainly not reasonable, at least they can’t be very bloody as Yahoos like Gulliver have such short claws and flat mouths that they wouldn’t be able to hurt each other very gravely. When Gulliver tells the master horse about weapons and explains the typical European artillery and its uses, the master horse is disgusted. He concludes that no reasonable being could commit such atrocities and thus that the reason Gulliver insists the European Yahoos possess can only be “some quality fitted to increase...natural vices; as the reflection from a troubled stream returns the image of an ill-shapen body, not only larger but more distorted.”
Like the Brobdingnagan king, the master horse sees Europe’s violent political tactics as a grotesque, unreasonable abuse of physical power. Whereas Europeans might point to their technological advances in weaponry and cunning war strategies as signs that their society is more sophisticated than Houyhnhmn society (which is ignorant of guns and war), the text suggests otherwise. Put in the words of the master horse’s perspective, European “advances” indeed look debased and repulsive, and seem a lot more like ignorance than knowledge.
Themes
Perspective Theme Icon
Moral vs. Physical Power Theme Icon
Society and the State Theme Icon
Knowledge Theme Icon
When Gulliver describes the “science” of European law, he describes lawyers as liars trained to manipulate language into claiming that the truth is whatever they are paid to claim; he describes courts being ruled by legal precedent with no regard for reason or common sense; he describes trials as long, tedious, aggressive accounts of endless details that are always besides the point of the actual case in question; he describes the impenetrability of legal jargon to common people. The master horse reflects that it’s a pity that people with such great mental abilities as lawyers must have aren’t teachers of “wisdom and knowledge.” Gulliver assures him that it’s no pity for in fact lawyers are “the most ignorant and stupid generation among us” in all matters apart from the law.
Gulliver presents an extremely grim view of European society’s justice system. His description of law’s “science” harkens back to Laputia and implicitly compares the members of Europe’s justice system to the useless, misguided projectors of the Lagadan academy. Indeed, lawyers and judges are, from Gulliver’s perspective, just a bunch of liars unable to apply their knowledge to any good effect in society.
Themes
Perspective Theme Icon
Society and the State Theme Icon
Knowledge Theme Icon
Truth and Deception Theme Icon