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Power Of Words: Issues of British Society Expressed In Gulliver’s Travels By Jonathan Swift

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Rev J. Martin once said: ‘Words are free. It’s how you use them that may cost you’. Often our society communicates so freely that before thought is even put into the context of our words it has already been spoken. Language has developed from a sophisticated way to communicate to now being whatever is on our minds. A prime example is “Gulliver’s Travels” by Jonathan Swift, Gulliver by the end of his four journeys surely has evolved to see the importance of words and communication. The direct comparison of the Yahoos and the Houyhnhnms demonstrates our greatest communication flaws. Emotions will cloud our judgement much like the Yahoos and our intentions become misconstrued.

There are many types of communication, verbal communication is the one most impactful and most misused. Houyhnhnms are a race of intelligent horses whose reason and rationality. Throughout his journey, Gulliver learns a great deal from the inhabitants from many of the islands he visits but none made quite an impact as the Houyhnhnms. He begins willingly abandoning any desire to return to England because of his infatuation with the morals the Houyhnhnms have taught him. When he is eventually in the position where he has to do just that, he loses the ability to communicate with the rest of his family and peers. Instead of returning to normalcy, he prefers to sleep in the stables once he return and pass his days in a pit of despair because of his newfound hatred for humanity. As stated in the travel log, Gulliver said the following which depicts the depth of this disgust: ‘in such a solitude as I desired, I could at least enjoy my own thoughts, and reflect with delight on the virtues of those inimitable Houyhnhnms, without any opportunity of degenerating into the vices and corruptions of my own species’ (Swift, p. 493).

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Gulliver began to harvest a self hatred for himself once the Houyhnhnms constantly compared and identified him as a Yahoo. A Yahoo, Gulliver describes as human in appearance, but unlike the Houyhnhnms do not have any rational feelings. Yahoos are described mostly as wild animals which are controlled almost entirely by instinct and emotion. Gulliver states that he fears: ‘degenerating into the Vices and Corruptions’, – which are Yahoos. It can be inferred that Jonathan Swift wants to show that humans are not rational animals. The interactions and agreements between people are what many believe shapes society as a whole, as a result, Swift raises the question is this possible because of how irrational the Yahoos are. Gulliver’s begins to have a similar perspective of the Houyhnhnms by the end of his journey which creates a problem once he returns home. He does not just simply adopt only a single belief from the Houyhnhnms, he also adopts their principles. While the English can be characterized as explorers and conquerors, the Houyhnhnms are nothing of the sort. It proves that human beings are not the rational animals that they are assumed to be, but in fact only animals that are capable of reason.

Gulliver’s British perspective is gone by the end of Gulliver’s Travels. However, surprisingly after learning a great deal from the Houyhnhnms society he does not try to better human society by introducing them to his new found knowledge. In summation, Jonathan Swift notes all the communication flaws such as their inability to think before they speak. Swift plays out the Houyhnhnms society as a utopia. However, he does not give humans the credit for their utility of human characteristics such as emotion. The Houyhnhnm society is so solely focused on reason, which makes them miss a lot of emotional life aspects. Gulliver did not want to return to humanity after his fourth adventure because of his newfound knowledge. With this knowledge he only witnessed the bad of humanity and did not see the flaws the Houyhnhnms also had. English society to Gulliver was disgusting and he’d much rather stay with a bunch of horses because he believed he had much more to learn from them.

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Power Of Words: Issues of British Society Expressed In Gulliver’s Travels By Jonathan Swift. (2023, February 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 22, 2023, from
“Power Of Words: Issues of British Society Expressed In Gulliver’s Travels By Jonathan Swift.” Edubirdie, 01 Feb. 2023,
Power Of Words: Issues of British Society Expressed In Gulliver’s Travels By Jonathan Swift. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Sept. 2023].
Power Of Words: Issues of British Society Expressed In Gulliver’s Travels By Jonathan Swift [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Feb 01 [cited 2023 Sept 22]. Available from:
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