Explain the following quote from Swift's Gulliver's Travels."Alliances by blood or marriage is a sufficient cause of war between princes, and the nearer the kindred, the greater is the disposition...

Explain the following quote from Swift's Gulliver's Travels.

"Alliances by blood or marriage is a sufficient cause of war between princes, and the nearer the kindred, the greater is the disposition to quarrel:poor nations are hungry and rich nations are proud, and pride and hunger will ever be at variance."

 

Asked on by shewa55

1 Answer | Add Yours

rrteacher's profile pic

rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

This quote is from Part IV, Chapter 5 of Gulliver's Travels. The title character, having been dumped on an island by his mutinous crew, has encountered the Houyhnhnms, a gentle race of horse-like creatures, and has been brought before their king. He is trying to explain various aspects of his society to the king, who can't understand him, because the Houyhnhnms are free of the corruption, greed, and violence that characterizes British society, in Swift's view. So as he tries to explain why Europeans go to war, he lists "alliances by blood or marriage" as one cause, doing so in a way that highlights the absurdity of people dying because of dynastic squabbles. He goes on to describe, in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, the "valour" of his countrymen, who had blown up "a hundred enemies at once in a siege."  The power of the satire comes from the fact that Gulliver is not being ironic. He really believes killing one hundred enemies is a sign of valor, and sees no impropriety in going to war over religion or other differences, or simply for pride. In fact, he states dispassionately that

For these reasons, the trade of a soldier is held the most honorable of all others: because a soldier is a Yahoo hired to kill in cold blood as many of his own species, who had never offended him, as he possibly can.

But the Houyhnhnm king is stunned, and responds that he cannot believe that creatures of reason behave this way. In fact, he wonders if reason is not a curse to the people of Europe (a common theme of Swift's) because it actually makes them more deadly to each other.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,982 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question