Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver's Travels book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download Gulliver's Travels Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Part IV, Chapters 11-12: Summary and Analysis

New Character:
Captain Pedro de Mendez: takes Gulliver to Portugal after he is expelled from the land of the

Houyhnhms

Summary
Gulliver sails away from the land of the Houyhnhms in his boat. He hears the sorrel nag, who always loved him, crying out, “Take of yourself, gentle Yahoo.” Gulliver plans to go to some uninhabited island with the means to support life and spend the rest of his life alone there, thinking of the virtues of the Houyhnhms. He would rather do this than hold the highest office in the politest court of Europe, so disgusted is he with human beings. He decides to sail to New Holland (Australia). He lands there, but is attacked by naked savages who injure him with an arrow.

He sees a sail in the distance but does not want to go aboard the ship. Several sailors see him and speak to Gulliver in Portuguese, which he understands. They tell him that the captain will take him for free to Portugal. From there, he could return to England. Gulliver is so reluctant to return to England that he has to be tied up and taken by force to the ship.

The captain, Pedro de Mendez, is sympathetic and generous, but Gulliver is so disgusted by human beings that he tries to jump off the ship and swim away. He has to be chained in his cabin. Gulliver briefly describes his experiences to the captain, who begins to believe Gulliver, but the captain compels Gulliver to promise to make no attempts on his life. Gulliver insists, however, that he would rather suffer the worst hardships than live among Yahoos. Gulliver is reluctant to wear clothes that had been worn by another human being. Arriving at Lisbon, he avoids going into the street for some time. When he finally has the courage, he has to put rue or tobacco in his nose to avoid the human smell.

Captain Mendez finally persuades Gulliver to return to England, since it would be impossible to find an island to live alone on. At home, he could be a recluse. An English ship takes Gulliver to his native land. Arriving at home, he feels hatred, disgust, and contempt at seeing his own family, and feels even worse at having been a parent. When Gulliver’s wife embraces and kisses him, he faints (he refers to her as “that odious animal”). For years, he is unable to endure his family’s presence; their very smell is intolerable. Gulliver immediately buys two horses; next to them their groom is his greatest favorite, because of his smell. He converses with his horses at least four hours daily.

In Chapter 12, Gulliver insists that he is truthful and compares favorably with other travel writers, intending only the public good. He quotes from the Roman poet Virgil to the effect that because he has been unfortunate, it does not mean that he tells lies. The speaker of this statement is Sinon, who persuaded the Trojans to admit the wooden horse into the city, thus causing the fall of Troy.

Gulliver goes on to say that he does not write from the view¬point of any party, writing without passion, prejudice or will toward anyone. He discusses the possibilities of England taking possession of the lands he has discovered and denies that there would be any point in doing so. It would not be worth the bother of conquering Lilliput, and it would be too difficult to conquer the other countries. As for the Houyhnhms, Gulliver wishes they could send representa¬tives to teach human beings a lesson. The Houyhnhms, like the emperor Augustus, kick back from all sides. In addition, colonial expansion is usually accompanied by serious abuses, but of course not when the English do it.

The week before writing the last chapter, Gulliver says that he has finally begun to sit at dinner with his wife, at the opposite end of a long table, but he still keeps his nose stopped up with rue, lavender, or tobacco leaves. Pride is the worst thing about human beings, Gulliver concludes, but the Houyhnhms lack it.

Analysis
For the first time in...

(The entire section is 1,022 words.)