Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES
The boom is about to be lowered on Gulliver. He, however, doesn't suspect a thing. In fact, he is wholly concentrated on his happiness with the Houyhnhnms. His health is perfect, and he says he has no feelings of inconstancy toward others (except, of course, the Yahoos, whom he despises) and feels no such feelings on the part of the Houyhnhnms toward himself. He's beside himself with love and gratitude that the Houyhnhnms don't consider him a Yahoo like any other.
Nothing he learned before living with the Houyhnhnms has any value for Gulliver. When he sees his reflection in a lake or fountain he turns his face away in disgust. He could better stand the sight of a common Yahoo than himself. Why do you think this is? Because seeing himself, he recognizes that he is more Yahoo than Houyhnhnm? He takes to imitating the Houyhnhnm ways of walking, talking, gesturing. When told he "trots like a horse," he feels he's received the ultimate compliment.
But the party's over, so to speak. Gulliver's master tells him that the members
of the grand assembly were offended that Gulliver, a Yahoo in spite of
his abilities, was being treated like a Houyhnhnm. They gave Gulliver's
host two options: 1. to put Gulliver in the kennel with the rest of the
Yahoos and treat him as the rest of his kind; or 2. to make him swim back
home. Because Gulliver has "some rudiments of reason," his master
elects a variation on the second solution. This is not only a compliment
to Gulliver, his master fears that he might use his intelligence to get
revenge against the Houyhnhnms. His master has grown fond of him and doesn't
wish him to drown; he therefore proposes that Gulliver be permitted to
build himself a boat.
Were you surprised by Gulliver's getting the boot? Did you see the handwriting on the wall in Chapter IX when the assembly was contemplating annihilating all Yahoos? What do you think of their expelling Gulliver? Can you think of any instances in which he did them harm? He's guilty of one thing: he's not exactly like them. He's not exactly like anything they're familiar with, either. Gulliver falls between the categories of life (Houyhnhnms/Yahoos) as they know it.
The Houyhnhnms think of reason as a means to maintain perfectly the status quo. But the powers of reason can also be used to explore the differences between people and the ways in which they can make a society vital. It depends on what you consider to be a vital society.
Gulliver is heartbroken by this decision, yet he accepts it, vowing to spend the rest of his life praising the Houyhnhnms in the hope that it will improve his species.
On leaving the Houyhnhnms, Gulliver tries to prostrate himself in front of his master in order to kiss his hoof. You could say that Gulliver has really been brainwashed on the subject of his own inferiority. His master doesn't allow Gulliver to perform this gesture, but raises his hoof to Gulliver's mouth so that he can kiss it while standing on his feet.
Does this strike you as a gracious gesture? (This is how it strikes Gulliver.) Or does it seem to be a touch hypocritical? After all, they've just sent poor Gulliver packing because they don't think he's as good as they are.