“My reconcilement to the Yahoo kind in general might not be so difficult…but when I behold a lump of deformity, and diseases both in body and mind, smitten with pride, it immediately breaks all the measures of my patience; neither shall I be ever able to comprehend how such an animal and such a vice could tally together.”
Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels Part 4, Chapter XII
By the point at which Gulliver has written the quote above he has lost connection with the world in which he was born. His own kind are distasteful and he wishes nothing more than to live the simple vice-free life of the Houyhnhnms. Throughout the novel he is slowly disassociating himself with the world he calls home. He has seen a broad view of human nature in Lilliput, a more microscopic view in Brobdingnag, and ultimately a reflective view of human nature through conversations with the Houyhnhnms.
When Gulliver first arrives at each of these worlds he is submissive to each of their demands. This survival technique is successful physically. He bears arrows, tossing, and a great fall into the ocean, escaping each time with his life. With each trip, however, his vision of reality is skewed more and more. Returning home the first time, Gulliver struggles physically with his height. He feels as though he will crush those in his path or that he has to kneel to meet his wife face-to-face. Though, after returning from his final trip, Gulliver’s mental change has altered even his physical tolerance of the English “animals” around him. This disassociation with himself and those of the same species as himself is a battle that many can relate to.
While the majority of people have not found themselves ashore a land of miniature humans, oversized humans, or rational horses, many have found themselves surrounded by people or situations that break their way of thinking. For instance, an American girl born and raised in Ohio befriends another girl who was born and raised in Bolivia. They trade stories of their cultures and the things they did when they were children. Months pass as they spend every waking hour together. The American girl has developed a slight accent, in which she complains about her weight of 68 kilos. And when it’s 18:30 they rush off to dinner for matzo before shutting off Camila’s “Mientes.” Upon sight of a few men, she exclaims, “Ay, those American boys,” shaking her head. This American girl has adopted the ways of her own Houyhnhnm.
This isn’t to say that Bolivians have an ideal society or that Americans are all Yahoos, but the disassociation could be argued to be a human quality when presented with a lifestyle that is more pleasurable than their own. Further than culture, people often feel detached from their own gender, nationality, sexuality, or even the current situation they are in. If Swift is correct then this separation and altering of assumed reality will bring people to an intolerance of their homes and loved ones. While Gulliver has an extreme case, this hyperbole could be a watered down truth of human nature. And if that is true, then even Gulliver’s distaste of human nature makes him human.