SATIRE OF GULLIVER'S TRAVELS Jonathan Swift's satirical prose, Gulliver's Travels, is the subject of wide variety of literary critique and social interpretation. Although many readers, at first glance, take this tale to be simply a fantastic narrative of a common man and his encounters with unusual locations and people through several journeys, further inspection reveals Swift's true purpose of creativity -- satire. Using the contemporary style of the Travel Narrative, Swift is able to insert his own personal criticisms of modern life into the experience of Gulliver. Swift focuses entirely on satirizing humanity in Book IV of Gulliver's Travels. Gulliver, representing a common man, encounters a wide variety of characters along his travels, each representing a subject Swift wishes to criticize.
His satire ranges from relatively simple political criticism in his experiences in Book I and II to a socio-political criticism in Book III, to the social, philosophical criticism of man in Book IV. If Book IV is read literally, with no knowledge of satire, it appears to be another bizarre journey of Gulliver, no more unusual than his other travels. It is obvious, however, that Book IV criticizes the nature of manas a rational being. Of interest to the readers of today is Swift's choice of creatures inhabiting this land; There is a barbaric, man-like creature dubbed the Yahoo and the civilized, good-natured horse-like creature, the Houyhnhnms.
"Upon the whole, I never beheld in all my Travels so disagreeable an Animal, or one against which I naturally conceived so strong an Antipathy" (IV, 193). His opinion of the Yahoos contrasts with his opinion of the Houyhnhnms. The Houyhnhnms think Gulliver is another Yahoo capable of outstanding intellect, but Gulliver is offended that they want to classify him as a Yahoo. "I expressed my Uneasiness at his giving me so often the Appellation of Yahoo, an odious Animal, for which I so utter an Hatred and Contempt" (IV, 205). Gulliver is able to discard his preconceived notion of man as superior being for a more cynical outlook after interacting with the inhabitants of Houyhnhnmland. Gulliver's transition from a "lover of mankind" to misanthropy comes as a result of a realization that man is not as he considers himself, but rather more " compatible, indeed, only with a formula, infinitely more humiliating to human pride, which pushes man nearly if not quite over to the opposite pole of the animal world" (IV, 403).
Gulliver sees the Yahoos not as beasts far-removed from the European man, but rather that the European man is merely a "more civilized variety of Yahoo" (IV, 244) who is subject to an "irrational disposition which motivates his habitual behavior" (IV, 404). The Yahoo brutes that inhabit Houyhnhnmland are a despicable species that have the physical appearance of humans. Though their behavior seems to be decadent and irrational, Swift shows that most of their behavior have parallels in the life of "civilized" humans. Swift is not only able to satirize on political matters of his time, but on the nature of man and many preconceived notions still existent today. The Houyhnhnms seem to embody virtue and all the perfections that humans seek, but there are inconsistencies in their behavior that are reflective human faults.
A final indication that the Houyhnmns are an attack on humanity is shown when the leader of the Houyhnhnms visits Lilliput where he visits the French Royal Society. He goes into a room in which a scientist is trying to turn wine into water. The scientist has been working hard at the experiment for many years without success when the Houyhnhnm arrives and immediately knows what to do "The Creature no sooner stepped through the doorway than struck upon a plan. Slurping up all the wine insight, he quickly made water in a bucket that sat near the door" (IV, 156).
Swift's Book IV of Gulliver's Travels makes a satirical attack on humanity. Throughout Gulliver Travels, the Houyhnhnms and Yahoo sare depicted as faults in humans. These two species are shown to be an ideal gone wrong. The satire on them is particularly well explained by the new born Houyhnhnm who, having just been born, exclaims, "With this sort of entrance, what must I expect from the rest of my life!" (IV, 178).