Part 4, Chapters 4–8
The Houyhnhnms are so naturally truthful that they do not have a word for “lie.” Gulliver’s master, therefore, does not quite know how to respond to his stories, since he is not accustomed to the concepts of doubt and disbelief. He is horrified to hear about the practice of riding on the backs of horses, objecting that “the weakest servant in his house would be able to shake off the strongest Yahoo.”
Communication is made more difficult, even when Gulliver has learned the language, by the comparatively small vocabulary of the Houyhnhnms, who have few desires and consequently few words to describe them. Gulliver’s master regards all Yahoos as contemptible creatures, and though he sees that Gulliver is unlike other Yahoos in his softer skin and different facial features, he does not see any particular advantage in these distinctions. He even points out that Gulliver’s hands are inferior to the fore-feet of an average Yahoo, since they are not so well adapted for climbing.
Gulliver tries to satisfy all his master’s enquiries, but the difficulty of doing so is primarily philosophical rather than linguistic. He attempts to explain his position as captain of a ship, but his master cannot understand how he could convince so many strangers from different countries to follow him, particularly when his former voyages had been so unsuccessful. The Houyhnhnm cannot understand such concepts as power, government, war, law, punishment, and the desire for wealth, so despite his high intelligence, he finds Gulliver’s explanations hard to understand.
Gulliver gives his master an account of several recent European wars. His master asks why one country goes to war with another, and Gulliver lists many causes, including the ambition of princes, the corruption of ministers, and differences of opinion about customs. He discusses the treachery of governments toward their allies and of kings toward their relations who rule other countries. He also tells his master about mercenary soldiers, who fight for money rather than for their country.
Gulliver’s master objects that he is too weak a creature for his species to be such prodigious fighters, since he lacks even the claws of a normal Yahoo. Gulliver tells him about the vast array of weapons human beings have created to destroy one another: “cannons, culverins, muskets, carabines, pistols, bullets, powder, swords, bayonets.” His master is appalled that a creature with all the malice and brutality of a Yahoo should also possess such destructive power. He then questions Gulliver about the laws of England. Gulliver explains the role of lawyers in defending falsehood and prosecuting the innocent, as well as their focus on all the least important aspects of any case, with the aim of winning rather than serving justice. His master observes that it is a pity for such intelligent creatures as lawyers must be to waste their abilities in this way, whereupon Gulliver assures him that outside the technicalities of their own profession, lawyers are generally accounted as ignorant and stupid.
Gulliver explains the use of money to his master, why it confers such great power on its possessor, and the lengths to which his countrymen will go to obtain it. He also discusses international trade, saying that the wealthier classes constantly scour the world for new luxuries and that “the whole globe of earth must be at least three times gone round before one of our better Yahoos could get her breakfast, or a cup to put it in.” He goes on to observe that most of the population make a small amount of money by providing luxuries for the rich and then talks of doctors, who earn their living by curing disease. The Houyhnhnm does not understand this concept, since, as Gulliver explains the matter, sickness is mainly attributable to eating and drinking the wrong things and to living in an unwholesome manner, matters in which the Houyhnhnms are quite innocent. He also remarks that...
(The entire section is 1,148 words.)