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Utopia or Dystopia? Swift
Topics: Jonathan Swift, Satire, Utopia / Pages: 3 (640 words) / Published: Oct 13th, 2013

Carolina Alarcón Marín
Utopia and Dystopia in: “Gulliver’s
Travels” Book 4 by Jonathan Swift

“That Nation which he describes as the Seat of Virtue, and its Inhabitants as Models to all the

World

Cleanliness,
(he

lays)

Fictions

for

Justice,

Temperance, reputed of

his

no

Truth,

and

Wisdom,

are

better

than

mere

own

Brain;

and

the

Houyhnhms and Yahoos deemed to have no more
Existence than the Inhabitants of Utopia”.1

In the voyage to the country of the Houyhnhms, portrays a

society

in

which

the

qualities

of

the

Jonathan Swift characters are

remarkable and in a way impossible, in other words these astounding moral and intellectual characteristics create a sense of a utopian society in the mind of the reader, especially when comparing it to the real world and the real social schemes in which we live on.
Swift’s satire in Houyhnhmland may be seen as a Utopia, but the incredible yet

awkward

behaviour

of

these

creatures

is

completely

unnatural, and therefore it creates a dystopia.
This utopia is believed to be plausible because of the accumulation of details the writer provides, enveloping the reader and blurring the limits between reality and imagination that have been imbedded in our minds through the socialization process.
“...He looked upon us as a sort of animals to whose share he could not conjecture, some small pittance of reason had fallen, whereof we made no other use than by its assistance to aggravate our natural
1

Williams, Kathleen, editor. ”Anonymous criticisms of Houyhnhmland”, in “Jonathan
Swift: The critical heritage”, Routledge, London, 1970, p. 97.

Carolina Alarcón Marín
Midterm Essay corruptions, us...”

and

to

acquire

new

ones

which

nature

had

not

given

2

The superiority of the Houyhnhms is especially noticed when judging human kind, because of the way in which one of them talks about “Yahoos”
(human beings) and how he addresses the situations which he believes are the ruin of our society and of our specie, and also because of his opinion on human knowledge and wisdom is limited, considering the fact that the only reports of these characteristics he has come across, are biased and limited because of the differences in cultural background and language as

well

as

Captain

Lemuel

Gulliver’s

clear

difficulties

to

convey the real meaning of certain social conventions or the purpose of certain social constructs.
Apart

from

Captain

Lemuel

Gulliver’s

lack

of

capability

for

explaining himself, we have to consider the Houyhnhm’s self-image as a society, because they themselves think highly on their intellect, and on the social structure they have developed.
“A Nation wholly influenced by truth and Honour, might as justly seem a Prodigy

to

us,

as

the

Speech

and

Policy

of

the

Nations

of

Houyhnhmland; and so far, it might appear an Imaginary Kingdom Rather than a Real one”. 3

Houyhnhmland’s social structure is difficult to fully grasp because of the unnatural implications found in it. This social structure is not
2

Swift, Jonathan. “Gulliver’s Travels”, Arcturus Publishing Limited, London, 2009,
p. 278.
3
Williams, Kathleen, editor. Op. Cit., p. 97.

2

Carolina Alarcón Marín
Midterm Essay what Gulliver believes it to be, it is something more complicated than a
“perfect” civilization, in fact in the pursue of perfection, it has become something somewhat unnatural, a dystopia.
The dystopia quality exists on book 4 from the very beginning, but is momentarily overshadowed by the unbelievable capability of animals to communicate between each other, in other words, is overshadowed by the discovery of the Houyhnhms and the uncertainty that this conveys. After a while, the narrator begins to explain this new and “superior” society, according to him, but some of the aspects he finds remarkable about this intelligent creatures, result unnerving to the most objective reader.
“This

view,

in

characterizes

which

what

has

interpreting

the

present

Travels

the

the

Houyhnhnms

become

Travels. as a

In

known

are

as

contrast

satire

in

regarded

the

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