Savages and Yahooâ€™s– Are they just one in the same?
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Part 4 of Jonathan Swiftâ€™s novel Gulliverâ€™s Travels covers a vast array of themes about the human race, our society and the treatment of others. Even thought it takes place in a land of a horse culture named Houyhmhnms and the disfigured human called the Yahoo, it calls to question a lot about our practices and ourselves. The story, to me, is filled with ethnocentric thought and the failure to open ones mind to new and different experiences. (I apologize for the small rant). Ethnocentrism is the belief that ones own culture is superior then the one you are currently in. Within the story both Gulliver and the Master of the Houyhmhnms seem to be under the ethnocentric spell. What caught my attention besides the theme are the word choices by Swift when regarding the unknown:
These words seemed very deliberate and repetitious during all ofÂ part 4 in Gulliverâ€™s Travels. Did Swift pick these specific words to get his point across? Are then words to highlight ones feelings to someone or something that is different? Does â€œsavageâ€ and â€œyahooâ€ have hidden meanings about those who are called such names? Oddly enough, yes.
Savage is a word primarily use by Gulliver. After Gulliver regains his wits from being banished off his own ship and washing up on land, his first choice of action is â€œ deliver himself to the first savages [he] should meetâ€ (pg. 2588). The word â€œsavageâ€ seemed so derogatory to me and I did not know why. I found I could not define it properly and therefore had to look into it further. After looking it up in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), â€œsavageâ€ means:
â€œ Uncivilized; existing in the lowest stage of culture.â€
Yeah, definitely not the most flattering word to describe someone I would have to say. Gulliver, however, seems to use this word often within the first 4 chapters of part 4. To be exact, 6 times within those chapters.Â While Gulliver used the word â€œsavageâ€ to refer to anyone he believes is beneath him or who is unknown to him; the master uses â€œYahooâ€ to do the same. Yahoo is a word we all yell during the two-week period of Stampede but I am sure we may have to rethink that one.
â€œYahooâ€ is a word first used by Jonathan Swift and its meaning has evolved and Oxford English Dictionary cites:
â€œA human being of a degraded or bestial type.â€
â€œA person lacking cultivation or sensibility.â€
Again, we all should possibly take a stand and not yell â€œyahoo!â€ during Stampede next summer. Just a thought.
The master does use it quite frequently as well, and goes much further then Gulliver by naming a full race of beings â€œYahoosâ€. Â For him a Yahoo does not possess â€œcivility and cleanlinessâ€ nor are they â€œa rational creatureâ€ (pg. 2599). They are lacking what the Houyhnhnms are â€œPerfection of Natureâ€(pg. 2595). Gulliver might not go as far with calling himself and his race â€œperfectionâ€ but the word â€œsavageâ€ carries the same undertone.
With one character being an intelligent doctor/ship captain, and the other being a horse in a land of Houyhnhnms, their word choices make them one of the same. â€œSavageâ€ and â€œyahooâ€ are not different when looking into the meaning, both words are used degrade the subject they are taking about. Jonathan Swiftâ€™s words were deliberate and definitely get the point across. Both the master and Gulliver have different views on what is civil and correct within a culture. However, as Swift points out with these words: no matter what we may call others who seem different, does it make us and our society look better?
Swift, Jonathan. â€œGulliverâ€™s Travels.â€Â The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. C. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2012. Print.