Gulliver’s Travels

by: Jonathan Swift

Part IV, Chapters V–XII

Summary Part IV, Chapters V–XII

Gulliver then describes further aspects of the Houyhnhnms’ society. They create excellent poetry, have a sound knowledge of medicinal herbs, build simple houses, and usually live about seventy or seventy-five years, dying of old age. They feel no sorrow about death, accepting it as a routine element of life. They have no writing system and no word to express anything evil.

Summary: Chapter X

A room is made for Gulliver, and he furnishes it well. He also makes new clothes for himself and settles into life with the Houyhnhnms quite easily. He begins to think of his friends and family back home as Yahoos. However, he is called by his master and told that others have taken offense at his being kept in the house as a Houyhnhnm. The master has no choice but to ask Gulliver to leave. Gulliver is very upset to hear that he is to be banished. He builds a canoe with the help of a fellow-servant and departs sadly.

Summary: Chapter XI

Gulliver does not want to return to Europe, and so he begins to search for an island where he can live as he likes. He finds land and discovers natives there. He is struck by an arrow and tries to escape the natives’ darts by paddling out to sea. He sees a sail in the distance and thinks of going toward it, but then decides he would rather live with the barbarians than the European Yahoos, so he hides from the ship. The seamen, including Don Pedro de Mendez, discover him after landing near his hiding place. They question him, laughing at his strange horselike manner of speaking, and cannot understand his desire to escape from their ship. Don Pedro treats Gulliver hospitably, offering him food, drink, and clothes, but Gulliver can think of him only as a Yahoo and is thus repulsed by him.

Gulliver is forced to travel back to England, where he returns to his family, which has been convinced that he is dead. He is filled with disgust and contempt for them. For a year he cannot stand to be near his wife and children, and he buys two horses and converses with them for four hours each day.

Summary: Chapter XII

Here commences a New Dominion . . . the Earth reeking with the Blood of its Inhabitants.

(See Important Quotations Explained)

Gulliver concludes his narrative by acknowledging that the law requires him to report his findings to the government but that he can see no military advantage in attacking any of the locations he discovered. Moreover, he particularly wishes to protect the Houyhnhnms.

[W]hen I behold a Lump of Deformity . . . it immediately breaks all the Measures of my Patience.

(See Important Quotations Explained)

Analysis: Part IV, Chapters V–XII

The desire that Gulliver experiences to live among the animals persists in European literature. This desire is echoed later by the Romantics, who, writing in the nineteenth century, idealized pastoral simplicity and a return to nature. In the case of the Romantics, however, this love of nature was a response to the urbanization and industrialization of European society. In Swift’s case, the return to nature is a two-pronged tool for satire, skewering both human civilization itself and those who would look to animals for a model of how to live.