Utopia or Dystopia? Swift
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
Temperance, reputed of
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
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
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
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...”
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
convey the real meaning of certain social conventions or the purpose of certain social constructs.
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
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
Swift, Jonathan. “Gulliver’s Travels”, Arcturus Publishing Limited, London, 2009,
Williams, Kathleen, editor. Op. Cit., p. 97.
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.
Travels. as a