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Gulliver's Travels – Comparison of Yahoos to Humans
The comparison of Yahoos to humans in Book Four of Jonathon Swift's Gulliver's Travels is entirely inappropriate. The Yahoos are shown as base creatures of barbaric nature and with little or no aptitude for learning. Swift's use of these lowly creatures to symbolize man is harsh, however, it does serve to enhance his satire to a certain degree. Nonetheless, his comparison is inaccurate and degrading to Mankind.
In his novel, Jonathon Swift uses the Yahoo, a creature with a great likeness to humans except in the amount of hair and the colors of their skin, to represent the nature of Man. He implies that we are all "...strong and hardy, but of a cowardly Spirit, and by consequence, insolent, abject, and cruel."(p. ). Perhaps he is right about some people, but this is not true of all Mankind. Most people are not insolent or cruel, and many have truly courageous Spirits. Any man or woman who joins the army in the time of the "War on Terrorism" can not be a coward. In the World Wars, millions of people died for the love of their country, can you call that cowardice?
As well, millions of institutions of higher learning have been established across the world. The Yahoos are shown to be ignorant and without any ability to learn. Human beings are constantly in the pursuit of knowledge, going to extreme lengths to satiate their boundless curiosity for the way things work within their world, and even without. Without a doubt, many human beings possess similar qualities to those of the Yahoos. We are capable of great cruelty, but also of great compassion. We can be insolent and rude, or we can be respectful and polite. We can be cowardly, but we are also capable of great feats of bravery. Mankind is not limited to the aspects of his nature that are unpleasant; he is constantly striving to surpass those negative characteristics.
Swift's comparison may be inaccurate, but it is also quite effective. In one's mind's eye, one can almost see the lowly creatures. Picking out only those negative aspects of our natures and magnifying them allows us to see them clearly, without making excuses for ourselves.
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Comparing Yahoos to humans is off base but not entirely unsuitable. We are not the primitive creatures Swift makes us out to be. The fact that we must own up to some of the qualities he sets out, however, does enhance his satire. Coupling truth with hyperbole makes for effective satirical writing. But it is the hyperbole itself that makes the comparison inaccurate.