Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

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Part IV, Chapters 9-10: Summary and Analysis

New Character:
Member of Assembly of Houyhnhms: proposes to eliminate the Yahoos

The Houyhnhms hold a grand assembly about three months before Gulliver’s departure; the dapple-gray is a representative. The members debate (the only debate they ever held) whether to eliminate the Yahoos. The Yahoos had not always been in the country of the Houyhnhms; two appeared together on a mountain long ago, produced by mud or by the sea, and proceeded to multiply. To control them, the Houyhnhms killed some and tamed the rest. Asses would make better domestic animals. The dapple mentions Gulliver, and suggests that the first Yahoos to arrive in the land of the Houyhnhms came by sea like Gulliver and gradually degenerated and became more savage. The Yahoos should be eliminated by castration, just as Gulliver’s people castrate Houyhnhms.

Gulliver goes on to say that the Houyhnhms have no writing; all their knowledge is traditional. They have no need for physicians. They know a little astronomy, and they are great poets. They build wooden houses, and they use parts of their hooves the way people use their hands, with great dexterity. They use stone tools and crude vessels of earth and wood. They die only of old age, unless there are accidents, and feel neither joy nor grief at deaths in their families. In one case, a mare arrived very late for an appointment because her husband “retired to his first mother.” She was delayed because of the necessity of consulting her servants as to where the body should be placed. Their only concept of evil relates to the Yahoos.

In Chapter 10, Gulliver describes how the dapple-gray makes a room for him outside the house, and how he makes clothes from the skins of animals and Yahoos. Gulliver is glad to be away from human follies. He speaks (only when spoken to) to several guests of his master on occasion. Their conversations are mostly on philosophical matters or ancient traditions. His attitude toward his family, friends, and countrymen becomes more and more negative.

Gulliver’s happiness is disrupted when his master tells him that the Assembly has disapproved of a Yahoo being treated almost like a Houyhnhm. Attempts were made to persuade him, since the Houyhnhms have no conception of compulsion, to either treat Gulliver like other Yahoos or expel him from their land. Those Houyhnhms who had seen Gulliver opposed the first alternative, fearing that he might organize the Yahoos to destroy the Houyhnhms’ cattle.

Gulliver faints. After he comes to he is allowed two months to build a boat with the help of the dapple-gray’s servants. He does so, kisses his master’s hoof, and sails off to an island he had seen with his pocket telescope.

Swift here puts in the mouth of the dapple the theory that the Yahoos are degenerate humans, who have come from overseas like Gulliver. Role reversal is again emphasized for satiric and humorous purposes: horses will castrate humans. Totally rational beings...

(The entire section is 756 words.)