Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

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What satire can we find in part 4 of Gulliver's Travels? How does it criticize society?

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Scott David eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I would suggest that the fourth part of Gulliver's Travels contains a criticism of the rationalism the Enlightenment espoused. Indeed, it's worth keeping in mind that Jonathan Swift himself could be quite critical of the Enlightenment and its focus on reason, as can be seen in a work such as "A Modest Proposal." That particular pamphlet seemed to suggest that reason on its own (unsupported by empathy and genuine human emotion) can lead one down paths that are utterly monstrous. I'd suggest this same perspective seems to be at work in the episode of the Houyhnhnms.

As has already been expressed, much of the satire of this fourth book depends on the reversal between the humanoid yahoos (who are treated within the narrative as beasts) and the hyper-rational Houyhnhnms. However, while Gulliver certainly idolizes the Houyhnhnms, that extreme rationalism contains an emotional coldness that turns into cruelty. Thus, we can observe in chapter 9 these hyper-rational horses holding a debate concerning...

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