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Theme Of Slavery In Gulliver’s Travels And Candide

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The theme of slavery arises many times throughout the stories Gulliver’s Travels and Candide. In these two stories, slavery is a reoccurring topic in which the slaves are unknowingly naive about their role as a slave and how some characters are optimistic on their views of slavery. Both differing in how slavery ties them together, however, still relating to the same theme.

In Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift, the main character Gulliver travels to many faraway lands in which he comes across the land of the Houyhynmn’s, inhabited by intelligent horse people and their servants, the Yahoo’s. Similar to Gulliver, the Yahoo’s share his looks, seeming to be of the same species. Although their looks are the same, there is are big differences in the intellectual aspects of the Yahoo’s. The Houyhynmn’s take Gulliver in, but unknowingly Gulliver is indeed a slave to his new-found friends, alongside the Yahoo’s. In the process of learning their ways Gulliver begins to worship them and ultimately starts to despise the Yahoo’s and the English people. He begins to believe they are better than the English people and like what they think of themselves, a superior species, or race. However, blinded by his perfect view of the Houyhynmn’s, he fails to realize that they are in fact, vile. Keeping up with the idea that they are superior to the Yahoo’s, this makes it easy for everyone, including Gulliver, to look upon the Yahoo’s as their “servants” or slaves. Disregarding all human rights, it also makes the act of genocide easier to come to terms with. In relation to the real world, the theme of slavery in Gulliver’s Travels, has various examples.

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Much like the idea of racial supremacy in the Houyhynmn’s, the Nazi’s used similar means to control Jews and many others during the holocaust. Forced labor and overall, slavery in holocaust camps played a big part in the mistreatment of the Jews. Nazi labor camps worked prisoners to death and subjected them to labor. In Gulliver’s world, the Houyhnmn’s failed to keep up with the breeding of donkeys therefore, started to herd the savages in their land to do pull heavy loads and do basic tasks. Much like the Jews, Yahoo’s were treated like animals, violating their human rights. The act of genocide playing a parallel part in our world and theirs, is done to rid the earth of a race or species they look down upon.

In Candide, written by Voltaire, the topic of slavery occurs some times throughout the story. Both Candide and Pangloss’ philosophy seems to follow the belief that good and evil play a part in the greater good. Overall, balancing each other out so, it must make evil inevitable and likewise, acceptable. As Candide comes across a young slave, sold by his mother, he proceeds to tell him how she believed it was an honor to serve the white man. Did his mother really believe this, or does she use this to excuse her actions? While her optimism does shine through with her apparent beliefs, it was in fact, not the reality for this young slave. Candide, ready to dispose himself of his profound philosophical views, decides to remain true to his original beliefs. If Candide, Pangloss’ and the slave’s mother are all morally correct in their view to slavery as their view to optimism, then they are all accepting the fact that the terrible life this slave forcibly lived for the greater good.

Much like Gulliver’s Travels, the idea of slavery seems to be accepted in Candide. Optimism plays a big part in keeping the world the way it is, maintaining the greater good. However, Gulliver is okay with the idea of enslaving the Yahoo’s because he despises them, seen as a disgusting and horrific creature, it makes it okay for this to happen. In both stories, the acceptance of violating one’s rights is important. Readers can see the naive outlook Gulliver has on the Houyhnmn’s and their similar traits to Nazi’s and even as far as slave masters. He turns a blind eye and is brainwashed in his own thinking of the supremacy of these horses, he allows for the violation of human rights in the mistreatment and idea of genocide against the Yahoo’s and even himself. In Candide, slavery is brought up, while not a focus how it is in Gulliver’s Travels, it still resonates a dark feeling within Candide. So much so, he considers abandoning his philosophical beliefs. After reading the two stories the reader can see how different the characters views are towards slavery. One, oblivious to what is happening in front of him and the others believing in reasons why it’s happening.

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Theme Of Slavery In Gulliver’s Travels And Candide. (2022, February 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from
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