Gulliver’S Travels, A Paradoxical Mix Of Utopia, Dystopia And Satire

1669 Words7 Pages
At first sight Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels appears to be a travel narrative. In this book the protagonist and narrator Lemuel Gulliver records what occurs on his travels. Gulliver ends up in different countries and comes in to contact with different races, species, customs and societies. In the last part of his recordings, Gulliver ends up in the country of the Houyhnhnms which he describes as ideal or utopian. Through further analysis we find that Swift did not just write a travel narrative, utopian novel or a satire. Gulliver’s travels is not ascribable to just one genre. This book is a paradoxical mix of utopian literature and satire. And in describing Gulliver’s utopia, Swift makes him both the object of his mockery and his spokesperson. What precisely is a utopia? According to the Oxford English Dictionary a utopia is “a place, state, or condition ideally perfect in respect of politics, laws, customs, and conditions”. A utopia is thus a generally non existing, ideal world. In utopian novels or texts a perfectly ordered society is presented where all the problems of poverty, greed, crime etc. have been eliminated. When focusing on the last part of Gulliver’s Travels, Gulliver ends up in the country of the Houyhnhnms. During his stay and acquaintance with these talking horses he comes to think of this society as a utopia or ideal world and its inhabitants as perfect creatures. They are incapable of, and in fact do not even have a term for lying and refer to it as saying “the [t]hing which is not” (Swift 228). They are guided by reason and facts alone. The contrary to this are the Yahoos. The Yahoos, who physically resemble human beings, are guided by their passions and emotions. They are despised by both the Houyhnhnms and Gulliver and presented as savage and barbaric. Gulliver despises himself for so much resembling Yahoos and on his
Open Document