The Houyhnhnms in Gulliver's Travels Essay

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The Houyhnhnms in Gulliver's Travels In the last part of the novel Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathan Swift, a dichotomy is established which crtiticizes two extreme ideas of man. The Houynhnms, a race of horses, are meant to symbolize man as a supremely rational being and the Yahoos, a primitive, vulgar version of humans, are made to symbolize man as an animal. The narrator Gulliver is a sort of reference point between the two, since in physical appearance he seems to be a Yahoo, but his ability to reason enables him to relate well to the Houynhnms. Readers have interrpreted the rational horses in a number of different ways. Some feel that the Houynhnms are the ideal to which humans should strive to attain. Others feel that the…show more content…
Indeed, Love plays no part in even the institution of matrimony. Mates are selected based on their coloring, and to produce offspring that will enhance the species as a whole. Even death evokes no emotion among the Houyhnhnms; "If they can avoid Casualties, they die only of Old Age, and are buried in the obscurest Places that can be found, their Friends and Relations expressing neither Joy nor Grief at their Departure." Why would the human ideal be existing as emotion-less, passion-less creatures devoid of feeling and driven purely by reason. Although Gulliver so admires them, Swift does not mean us to take this admiration seriously. When Gulliver first encounters the Houynhnms, he takes an immediate liking to them, saying "Upon the whole, the behaviour of these animals was so orderly and rational, so acute and judicious, that I at at last concluded they must needs be Magician." This admiration grows and grows until he quickly comes to believe that these creatures are perfect in every way possible. The fact that these creatures are horses, not humans, symbolizes how Swift believes that no humans can be so perfect. The extent to which Gulliver worships these creatures is further delineated by his self-loathing; "When I happened to behold my Reflection of my own
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