Monday, September 5, 2011
Monday, September 5, 2011 by Faizan Bhatti
“Gulliver’s Travels is aimed not at human beings in particular but at human nature." How far do you agree with this view?
About the nature of man, David Ward explains in very clear terms when he remarks:
“Gulliver, the son of Adam, as I have called him, is posed with a problem, and by the same token poses a problem for the reader which can be stated in the traditional language of theology. Whether we use the language of theology or not, the problem remains the same: Gulliver gives another hint to it in the passage quoted, when he speaks of the “frequent discourses with my master concerning the nature of manhood.” The special faculty which distinguishes man from other animals, according to Locke and almost every thinker of the time is reason. “That is the key factor in the nature of manhood. But we can hardly agrue that to a Houyhnhnms. Confronted with the similarities between the real world as we know it and the microcosmic society to the Yahoos, we might come to the conclusion that key to “the Nature of Manhood” is man’s helpless tendency to foulness and evil – and this is the conclusion both Gulliver and the Houyhnhnms come to. Man after all, is the most destructive animal which has ever populated the earth; air, the plants, the other animals; the way he fouls and destroys his surroundings with methodical efficiency, exceeds anything that, the rat can do. We surely cannot resist this conclusion any more than we could resist the Brobdingnag’s summary description of the little-worlders as Odious Vermin.”
Here a clear distinction has been made by David Ward between the human beings and the animals. Reason is the basic faculty which distinguishes the man from the animal. If a human being does not possess reason in his nature, that particular human being is no more than an animal. The “reason” is cultivated in the human nature. If the human nature is devoid of reason, then the human being as well as an animal is at par, rather worse than an animal.
In Gulliver’s Travels, there are three types of beings, who are portrayed in the fourth part of the book. There are the human beings themselves, represented by Gullivers countrymen. Gulliver gives a detailed account of these countrymen to his enquire master. Then there are Yahoos, who represent mankind in general who possess all types of evils, which have been immensely exaggerated and their good qualities completely eliminated. The third types are that of Houyhnhnms or the horses, which according to Gulliver represent perfection. This perfection is on account of the fact that they possess the great quality of reason. Though the entire mankind is immensely degraded when a contrast is made between the Houyhnhnms with Yahoos who represent that part of mankind who by nature are corrupt and spend their money in drinking, whoring, and gambling and many commit such crimes coining false money, rape and sodomy. This picture of the human beings is positively correct. But everyone will agree that we cannot blame the entire mankind. All human beings are not guilty of such crimes and that there are many good men also in all human societies.
A letter that Swift wrote to Alexander Pope in connextion with Gulliver’s Travel offers considerable help to understand Swift’s attitude towards mankind. The relevant part of the letter reads as follows:
“But principally I hate and detest the animal called man although I heartily love. John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth… I have got materials towards a treatise, proving the falsity of that definition Animal Rationale and to show, it should be only Rational Capex. Upon this great misanthropy, the whole building of my travel is created.”
In another letter Swift writes:
“Drown the world, I am not content with despising it but I would anger it, if I could with safety. I tell you after all that I do not hate mankind; it is Vous Autres who late them, because you would have them reasonable animals, and are angry for being disappointed.”The gist of all these statements is that his main aim is achieved when he says that “I want to vex the world rather than divert it: especially when he declares that he has “ever hated all nations, professions and communities and all his love is towards individuals. It means that he realizes that we cannot blame the entire humanity but he hates and detests that animal called man. Swift does not believe that a man is a rational animal called man. Swift does not believe that man is a rational animal through he does believe that man is capable of becoming rational, if he makes the necessary effort. That is why Swift adds that upon this great foundation of misanthropy, the whole building of Gulliver’s Travels has been erected. He wanted to shake people out of their complacency and to make them aware of their own faults and shortcomings. One thing which is quite evident that when Gulliver refuses to go back to
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