DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.10961356

The Nature of Humanity and Utopia in Gulliver’s Travels

by Zhen Han

Thomas More’s Utopia is the pioneer of modern utopian writings. Unlike the classical utopia found in Plato’s Politeia or Atlantis, which only existed in myth and dialogue, More argued that Utopia exists in parts of our own world. However, More failed to demonstrate the diversity of Utopia. Meanwhile, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels demonstrated how the tension between the moderns and ancients also arises in modern utopia, especially when it comes to human nature. The initial motivation for Gulliver’s wanderings is his disgust with the corrupt system of government. Gulliver hasn’t found an ideal regime in Laputa, a technological polity that is highly dependent on technology and theocracy, whose technological dialectic dictates the persistence of political abuse of technology, especially the simplified language requiring the unity of mind and matter. Gulliver realizes that the good politics being sought by Laputa provide security as well as humanity. When Gulliver arrives in the land of Houyhnhnms, due to his aversion towards the bestiality of the Yahoo, he begins to close himself off and learn from the Houyhnhnms’s divinity. But in the end, he is unable to reintegrate into human society. The moral of Gulliver’s Travels is that modern utopia can only be achieved by transcending our own human nature. If we don’t want to be replaced by Gulags or other communist revolutions while seeking utopia, we must understand the limits of human nature.

Download PDF