Jonathan Swift as a misanthropist
Question: Discuss Jonathan Swift as a misanthrope or misanthropist. Or, what has been discussed in the Fourth Part of “Gulliver’s Travels”?
“Gulliver’s Travels” is the spectacular prose fiction of Jonathan Swift (1667-1745). Gulliver is the mouthpiece of Swift. In part four, Gulliver emerges as a violent hater of mankind. The baseness and immorality of human beings enrage Gulliver so much that he ultimately expresses his strong faith in the superiority of the horses which means the Houyhnhnms.
The type of species represented in the Fourth Part
To develop the term ‘misanthropist’, we need to know that three species have been limned in Book 4 of “Gulliver’s Travels”. The yahoos which are abominable creatures represent the worst form of mankind with no morality and rationality. Elsewhere, the Houyhnhnms are in stark contrast to the Yahoos and they are the symbol of perfection of nature. Lastly, Gulliver himself represents European civilization.
Focusing on the massacre
Through Gulliver, Swift shows his loath against human civilization because of war which causes massacre. In chapter five of the Fourth Part, Gulliver presents the history of Europe to his master including past wars and wars in progress.
“And therefore in recounting the numbers of those who have been killed in battle, I cannot but think, that you have said the thing which is not.”
Here, the Houyhnhnm master exposes his pathetic feeling about the war. Gulliver then tells his master that it is the boundless ambition of princes and malignity of the minister that produce devastating war. War is certainly a malfunction of human civilization, but the power hunter people take pride in a war that is why Gulliver could not tolerate the so-called civilized society and its subjects.
Focusing on the avarice
Gulliver explains to his master about the financial condition of his country and the existing differences between the rich and the poor. Here Gulliver asserts that the rich are responsible for the disparity in society. They suck the blood of the poor class. The poor are hard workers, but they are even deprived of their basic requirements because of the luxurious lifestyle and avarice of the rich class. They engage themselves in ignoble professions to earn their livelihood. Whereas the world of horses is totally in stark contrast to the reputed human race. He castigates the greediness of humans to confirm his misanthropic belief that could not be avoided at all.
Focusing on human professions
When Gulliver concentrates on the human professions especially service-based professions such as lawyers, judges, and doctors, he cannot but show his misanthropic notion. Gulliver marvels at seeing how the lawyers have the incredible capacity to distort the truth. Their expertise in speaking lie depends on the amount of money that they are paid. Then Gulliver states that the judges are the main culprit for creating sustainable crimes. In respect of doctors, Gulliver is more aggressive. Being a trained surgeon, Gulliver could well understand the doctors and he expresses their mentality in the following manner:
“We ate when we were not hungry and drank without the provocation of thirst.”
Now, it seems that Gulliver rises an asking within the human heart whether it is enough for being misanthropic or not since there is no such heinous professions in the land of the horses.
The function of the government
Gulliver explains how the English government works. Ministers are selected for service based on their social connections and often through marriage. Sometimes they attain their positions by betraying their predecessors, and sometimes they are selected for service because of their support of a position or leader. So, what betterment prevails in human society at all.
Gulliver brings his self-loathing as a Yahoo back to England, and he loathes his fellow Yahoos as well. He even rejects his family and starts talking to the horses and spending time with them. He mostly despises pride because he sees no reason for Yahoos to be proud of themselves for anything. Even though they possess virtue, they should have no reason to be proud because such a notion violates the pure reason that the Houyhnhnms occupy.
Now, we can undoubtedly say that Swift’s abhorrence for human beings coming out through his discussion with the master Houyhnhnm is agreed and unanimous. Basically, upper-class people of European civilization has been castigated for the purpose of rectification.