Gulliver's Travels

Book Four of Swift's Gulliver's Travels: Satirical, Utopian, or Both?

Once kick the world, and the world and you will live together at a reasonably good understanding.

Jonathan Swift

When Gulliver's Travels was first published in 1726, Swift instantly became history's most famous misanthrope. Thackeray was not alone in his outrage when he denounced it as "past all sense of manliness and shame; filthy in word, filthy in thought, furious, raging, obscene" (quoted in Hogan, 1979: 648). Since then, few literary works have been so dissected, discussed and disagreed apon. It is the magnum opus of one of the English language's greatest satirists, but certainly does not offer any easy answers. It is written like the typical travel book of the day, but instead of offering a relaxing escape from the real world, it brings us face to face with reality in all its complexity.

Of the four books comprising the work, by far the most controversial has been the last: "A Voyage to the Houyhnhnms". In it, the narrator, Gulliver, is deposited by mutineers on an island inhabited by two species. The Yahoos are dirty, savage and barbaric, with no capacity for reason. These wretched creatures physically resemble humans but immediately fill Gulliver with loathing. The Houyhnhnms, on the other...

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