Last Reviewed on May 12, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 824
After five months ashore in England, Gulliver accepts the captaincy of the Adventurer, setting sail in September 1710. He stops in the Caribbean to take on new recruits, but these men turn out to be buccaneers, who seize the ship and take Gulliver prisoner. In May 1711, they set him ashore in an unknown country. When he has walked some distance along a road, Gulliver sees some creatures in a field. He describes these animals as being singularly disagreeable and says that he immediately conceived a strong antipathy toward them. They have hair on their heads and chests, but most of their bodies are hairless, and they often stand on their hind legs. They begin to approach Gulliver, but he strikes one with the flat of his sword. Several other creatures climb up into the branches of a tree, from which they pelt Gulliver with excrement.
The filthy creatures are suddenly frightened away, and Gulliver realizes that the cause of their flight was the arrival of a horse, which seems to be astonished at the sight of Gulliver. Another horse joins them, and the two horses appear to greet each other and to be able to communicate. Gulliver is clearly an object of wonder to both of them, particularly his hat, clothes, and shoes. He hears them repeating the word “Yahoo,” which he astonishes them by repeating, along with the word “Houyhnhnm,” which they teach him.
Gulliver accompanies one of the horses for about three miles, to a long, low building, inside which are several other horses. He looks for the master or mistress of the house but sees only horses, some of them sitting on their haunches. Everything inside the house is perfectly neat and clean, and the place is simply yet elegantly furnished. The horse leads Gulliver into a courtyard, where he sees three of the same type of creatures that attacked him on his arrival. They are chained up, and the horse orders one of them to be unchained and placed side by side with Gulliver for the purposes of comparison. Gulliver is horrified to find that these degraded creatures, the Yahoos, are almost identical to humans. He notes the flat, broad face and thick lips but says that “these differences are common to all savage nations.” The fore-feet of the Yahoo are the same as Gulliver’s hands, except for being hairier, darker, and having longer nails.
The horses are still baffled by Gulliver’s clothes, which seem to them the principal point of difference between him and the Yahoos. They try to give him raw donkey’s flesh to eat but find that he cannot eat either this or the oats and hay that furnish their diet. Finally, Gulliver succeeds in communicating that he wishes to milk a cow and is able to drink the milk. Later, he contrives to make something resembling bread from the oats which the horses eat.
Gulliver attempts to learn the language of the horses, which sounds somewhat like Dutch or German. After about ten weeks, he is able to understand the questions of the horse who brought him to the house, who is the head of that household and to whom he now refers as his master. However, his master is unwilling to accept that Gulliver comes from a faraway country where there are other creatures like him or that he traveled to the country of the Houyhnhnms across the sea in a vessel made of wood. The word “Houyhnhnm” in their language signifies “horse” and means “the perfection of nature.”
Word spreads that Gulliver’s master has a Yahoo that can talk and shows signs of reason, and various other Houyhnhnms come to see Gulliver. They are all fascinated by his clothes, the mystery of which Gulliver preserves by only removing them when he is alone. However, realizing that they will soon wear out and he will need to procure some more, he shares the secret of the clothes with his master, telling him that it is usual for people to wear these coverings in his own country.
Gulliver concludes the chapter with a brief account of the information he gave to his master over the course of many conversations. He came from a far country with fifty others of his kind, in a great hollow vessel made of wood. After a quarrel, he was set ashore, where he was attacked by the Yahoos from whom his master delivered him. His master asks who made the ship and why the Houyhnhnms of Gulliver’s country would allow animals to sail it. Gulliver, after seeking and receiving a promise that his master will not be offended, says that in his country, creatures like himself are the rational ones and the ones who govern the land. His own countrymen would be just as astonished at a nation governed by horses as the Houyhnhnms are to encounter a rational creature who resembles a Yahoo.
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