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Discussion Questions for Gulliver's Travels: Book IV

Although these questions look like "plot" questions, be aware that they imply a knowledge of 18th neoclassical philosophy that should be used to answer them:


1. Characterize Gulliver's reaction to the Yahoos after landing.

2. What conclusion does he reach when he sees the Houyhnhnms?

3. What irony happens in this chapter and how does it occur? Recall a device used in Modest Proposal.


1. What do the Houyhnhnms do that Gulliver finds disgusting. Note the gradually emerging irony.

2. What is the nature of the initial Gulliver-Yahoo contact--recall the epistemology of the period.

3. What do the Houyhnhnms do in this chapter that they did in the last one?


1. What do the Houyhnhnms find amazing about Gulliver?

2. What is the meaning of the phrase, "I was taught to imitate a rational creature..."? Recall the "ancients."

3. What does the word HOUYHNHNM mean, and what is Swift's point?

4. Why is the phrase "say the thing which was not" so important?

5. By the end of the chapter, what is Swift establishing?


1. What does Gulliver tell the Houyhnhnms that they find hard to believe?

2. What is the irony regarding the comparisons made in this chapter?

3. What does Gulliver begin unconsciously to do in this chapter? Why?

4. What does it tell you about the Houyhnhnms in terms of the way they react to what Gulliver tells them about Europe?

5. What does Gulliver try to do in these chapters, and is he successful?


1. What does Gulliver say about lies and the truth? Recall a Shakespeare play.


1. What profound change has taken place in Gulliver?

2. What is the human condition as seen by the Houyhnhnms?

3. Outline a series of comparisons between the Yahoos and the Houyhnhnms?

4. What is the most damning link between Gulliver and the Yahoos?


1. How is the answer to the last question illustrated in this chapter?

2. What does Gulliver admit? Why?

3. Give an analysis of the Houyhnhnms and their culture: what do they believe about themselves? How accurate is the assessment? What does Gulliver believe...and what does Swift think?


1. What is the question under debate at the general assembly , and what is the philosophy involved?

2.Do you see any modern parallels in your answer to question one. The irony is devastating. What could Swift foresee?

3.Note the continued description of the Houyhnhnms and their culture. The series of contrasts are especially significant.


1. What is Gulliver's opinion of horses and men, and what is the humor involved--and is it just humor?

2. What is Gulliver told he must do, and why is he told? Note his reaction


1. In a TV movie of Gulliver, he returns home and lives with has family happily ever after, when proof is forthcoming that he did not invent the stories he told of the other lands he visited in Books 1 and 2 and 3. Is this the way the text actually ends? What comparisons can be made in terms of the movie and the book?