Gulliver's Travels

Misanthropy in Gulliver’s Travels College

Misanthropic undercurrents have often been detected in Gulliver’s Travels, usually unearthed and expounded in connection to the fourth book of the travelogue. Through Gulliver, the fourth book voices vehement misanthropy, with propounding the peaceful life of Houyhnhnms as an ideal model. Gulliver is the resident misanthrope, detesting corrupted human nature and desiring to live as a recluse. However, a close reading of the text provides us with a contradicting opinion, that of Swift’s. Though he seems to hate the follies and vices of mankind, he doesn’t abandon his fellow humans, rendering their cases hopeless. He denounces the incurable optimism of the Enlightenment and the overemphasis on Reason, but also attempts to regain the dignity and worth of humankind. Gulliver’s philosophical pessimism can perhaps be posited in contrast to Swift’s measured optimism, which however renders us at an ambiguous position. This essay will attempt to trace out the streak of misanthropy evolving out of this ambiguity while figuring out the wider implications of it. Moreover, it has to be discussed as to whether the misanthropic characteristics can be attributed to both Gulliver and Swift, or just to Gulliver, manically misanthropic at the...

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