Swift’s satirical masterpiece Gulliver’s Travels ridicules English politics, the judicial system, and religious disputes. No doubt, but it is also a satire of humanity in general.
A satirical work possesses some comic elements by exposing the follies, absurdities, and faults of human beings in a humorous manner. Though Gulliver’s Travels has some comic elements, its somber mood has a tragic undertone of all the parts. Essentially, part IV is wholly tragic as far as Swift’s treatment is concerned.
An analysis of part IV of Gulliver’s Travels reveals that it is essentially tragic, containing not comic satire but corrosive satire in general. Indeed, the book is a sustained satire assault aiming at vexing the world. Swift’s dissection of human tissue is complete in the climactic fourth voyage. There is nothing left, no possibility of any further exposure.
Swift Delineates Man’s Dichotomy of Beast And Reason in Book IV
In Book IV, Gulliver does not deal with unexpected problems of human life but with the very core of his belief, the dichotomy of beast and reason in man.
Man occupies the most deplorable situation in the chain of being, for he shares the intelligence of superior creatures to a limited degree; he shares the sensuality of animals.
This tragic duality of man is presented in the last book of Gulliver’s Travels with great pathos. The country of the Yahoos and Houyhnhnms is described in this voyage in great detail. Human beings are no better than beasts in this country.
Gulliver Finds Houyhnhnms Superior to Human Beings in Book IV
In Houyhnhnm, horses are superior to human beings. The horses or the Houyhnhnms are the noblest conceivable animals. They are governed by reason. Having a language of their own, they can teach their language to a human being like Gulliver.
Houyhnhnms have their customs and methods of government while the principles of benevolence and kindness guide them. They are free from all kinds of evils, and there is no word in their language for lying or falsehood. They settle their problems by holding a periodical assembly to discuss the matters.
They believe in population control and never marry for the sake of love or the pleasure of sex. Their marriage leads to reproduction, but they control childbirth very effectively.
Gulliver Finds Yahoos’ Abhorrent Nature Akin to Humans
The Yahoos symbolize that human beings are despicable creatures arousing our disgust and abhorrence. The portrayal of the Yahoos intensifies the satire on the human race.
Yahoos resemble human beings and are meant to represent them, emphasizing the evil nature of human beings. Gulliver describes the Yahoos as filthy and the most untouchable of all brutes.
However, the portrayal of the Houyhnhnms reveals that despite their remarkable qualities, they lack some essential human qualities. This portrayal makes us more keenly aware of our species’ weaknesses, follies, and evils. We are compelled to admit the essential tragedy of Swift’s portrayal of humanity.
Swift Attacks Human’s Pride in Satiric Gestures And Narratives
Swift in this book most successfully antagonizes humanity and directs our attention to faulty human nature. The book is far from being the outburst of a misanthrope in the most genuine attack on man’s pride.
The satire reaches its climax when Gulliver eventually declares that much of his corrupt nature is inferior to Yahoos.
The development of satire in this book lies in Gulliver’s shocking awareness that Yahoos are his species. This tragic realization constitutes the nucleus of this great book. When Gulliver humbly kisses the foot of a horse, the tragic undertone reaches its climax.
This degradation of man to the level of Yahoos is one of the most painful realizations in this book, adding to the sense of tragedy.
As expressed in the concluding chapters, Gulliver’s final outlook on life further deepens the sense of tragedy. Gulliver returns home most reluctantly, and his reunion with his family has a saddening effect on him.
Having lived among the noble Houyhnhnms, Gulliver finds it quite impossible to adjust to fellow human beings. The very odor of human beings makes him disgusted.
Gulliver’s Travels in general, and the fourth book, in particular, is undoubtedly a tragic work.
However, Gulliver’s Travels is not tragic in any commendable sense. It does not elevate or uplift as a great tragedy supposedly does. It also fails to arouse catharsis in us though we pity humanity. Instead of glorifying humanity, it offers a depressing picture of a man.