Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels

Gulliver's Travels Book 4, Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Gulliver often goes out to study the Yahoos in order to learn more about human nature. The master horse consents to this and sends along one of his servants for Gulliver’s protection. Gulliver recounts that the Yahoos often approach him during his observations and imitate his movements like “monkeys.” He once tries to capture a toddler Yahoo for closer examination but his efforts to subdue it don’t work and the baby squirms, bites, and defecates all over Gulliver before escaping.
Even though Gulliver knows, intellectually, that the Yahoos are humans, his own perspective on what it means to be a human prevents him from being able to reconcile himself to the truth of this knowledge. Thus he examines the Yahoos as a foreign species and refers to them as “monkeys.”
Themes
Perspective Theme Icon
Knowledge Theme Icon
Truth and Deception Theme Icon
Gulliver explains that, among the Houyhnhmns, the Yahoos are kept in kennels, sent to dig up roots and catch small game in fields, and fish. Once while Gulliver is swimming in a river he is assaulted by a young female Yahoo who can’t contain her lust for him. Gulliver is mortified by the incident, feeling he can no longer deny that he is “a real Yahoo” since the female Yahoos recognize him as a potential mate.
Houyhnhmn society treats human Yahoos much the way European human society treats its animals. Gulliver is mortified because, though he considers himself different from the Yahoos, the young woman proves that, from the Yahoo perspective, he is a Yahoo.
Themes
Perspective Theme Icon
Society and the State Theme Icon
Gulliver goes on to describe the ways of the Houyhnhnms. Their reason is so perfect and absolute that they never have disagreements or differences of opinion—in fact, they don’t even have a word for “opinion.” They love all of their species equally and treat their relations as well as they treat neighbors and strangers. They don’t show their children affection but instead educate them in reason.
Houyhnhmn society is governed by absolute reason—their dedication to rational thinking and behavior produces a perfectly moral, egalitarian society, albeit one lacking in individual personality and affection.
Themes
Moral vs. Physical Power Theme Icon
Society and the State Theme Icon
The Houyhnhnms practice family planning so that each marriage is arranged by family and friends of a couple to balance the partners’ respective strength and beauty without giving thought to “courtship, love, presents, jointures, settlements.” Each couple has two offspring, one colt and one foal, before stopping (servant couples have three in order to keep the households well-stocked with servants).
Houyhnhmn society embodies the utopian ideals of equality and balance. Still, embracing those ideals seems to require them to abandon any chance of individual love and choice.
Themes
Society and the State Theme Icon
Get the entire Gulliver's Travels LitChart as a printable PDF.
Gulliver s travels.pdf.medium
The Houyhnhnms’ children are educated in “temperance, industry, exercise…cleanliness,” “strength, speed, and hardiness,” and both genders receive the same kind and degree of education. The master horse is disgusted by human Yahoos’ propensity to discriminate between male and female education.
Another example of Houyhnhmn society’s embodiment of a utopian, egalitarian ideal. This equality of the sexes is in marked contrast to European society’s sexism.
Themes
Society and the State Theme Icon
Every four years, a representative council of all the land meets to discuss “the state and condition of the several districts” and then immediately supplies undersupplied districts with hay, oats, cows, Yahoos, or extra children.
Another example of Houyhnhmn society’s embodiment of utopian ideals: their state is perfectly democratic and treats all subjects equally.
Themes
Society and the State Theme Icon