Gulliver’s Travels: Don Pedro de Mendez

Last Updated: 10 Jan 2022
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In the beginning, Book IV of Gulliver’s Travels starts off as an almost comedic anarchist story of a captain being held hostage on his own ship and being thrown off board on a strange unknown island, but in reality ends up being a satiric comment on society with a deep philosophical meaning. The author, Jonathan Swift, cleverly intertwined many intelligent, complex and interesting characters into the voyages of the antagonist: Lemuel Gulliver. Don Pedro De Mendez, a character introduced by Swift in the eleventh chapter, serves great use to the plot as well as to the readers’ understanding of Book IV of Gulliver’s Travels.

Particularly as a bridge between two worlds; the reason (being the land of the Houyhnhnms) and the lawless (the yahoos or humankind around the world). Don Pedro De Mendez serves as a function of making the antagonist reflect. When the first encounter is made with Don Pedro we see that he is an outstanding “Yahoo”. “He was a very courteous and generous person; {…} desired to know what I would eat or drink {…} but he ordered me a chicken and some excellent wine. ” (Swift 2456). The reader acknowledges from the start that he is a kind, generous, amiable and loving man.

Many manners Don Pedro presents towards Gulliver lead’s him to commence his questioning in regard of whether humankind is really as awful as the Houyhnhnms have portrayed. “that I wondered to find such civilities in a Yahoo” (Swift 2456). Don Pedro showed care for Gulliver not only when he took him on board gratis but when he saved him from jumping off the boat to his death. “He desired to know my reason for so desperate an attempt; assured me he only meant to do me all the service he was able {…} that at last I descended to treat him like an animal which had some little portion of reason” (Swift 2456).

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At this point Gulliver begins to realise that, even though he is still repulsed by human look and smell, not every Yahoo is as appalling as he is lead to believe. At this point, it is quite obvious that Don Pedro is inserted into the plot for a definite reason and it starts to take effect on Gulliver. Not only does he manage to withstand Don Pedro and his sailor’s company but he begins to create false pretences “but pretending I was sick, kept close in my cabin. (Swift 2458) while he says that only Yahoos lie “the use of speech was to make us understand one another, and to receive information of facts; now, if any one said the thing which was not, these ends were defeated, because I cannot properly be said to understand him; and I am so far from receiving information, that he leaves me worse than in ignorance; for I am led to believe a thing black, when it is white, and short, when it is long. ” (Swift 2428). “For I had quite forgot the faculty of lying, so particular to Yahoos in all countries where they preside, and consequently the disposition of suspecting truth in others of their own species. (Swift 2456). More and more as the plot refines itself, Gulliver begins to regain old everyday humanoid habits. “I only desired he would lend me two clean shirts, which having been washed since he wore them, I believed would not so much defile me. These I changed every second day, and washed them myself. ” (Swift 2457). “The captain persuaded me to accept a suit of clothes newly made {…} which I aired for twenty-four hours before I would use them. ” (Swift 2457). Jonathan Swift also used the character of Don Pedro as a plot mover. He helps advance and continue the plot in many ways.

Primarily, if his ship was not spotted at just the perfect time by Gulliver, Gulliver would have continued to the northern end of the peninsula and probably have been hunted down by natives and murdered. The presence of Don Pedro saves Gulliver’s life twice that day, “and in half an hour stole out, when I thought the crew was at dinner; and getting to the side of the ship, was going to leap into the sea, and swim for my life, rather than continue among Yahoos. But one of the seamen prevented me {…} I was chained to my bed” (Swift 2456) so if Don Pedro’s men would not have been there to stop Gulliver from jumping, the plot would have ended. When they began to talk, I thought I never heard or saw any thing so unnatural, for it appeared to me as monstrous as if a dog or a cow should speak in England, or a Yahoo in Houyhnhnmland” (Swift 2456). Also, Don Pedro and his men were the first Yahoos he spoke to in five years, which helped his progression from a houyhnhnm to a humanoid. “When they began to talk {…} they spoke to me with great humanity, and said they were sure their captain would carry me gratis to Lisbon. ” (Swift 2456). Finally, thinking that Gulliver is ready, shown in this quote: “In a week’s time he seduced me down to the door.

I found my terror gradually lessened, but my hatred and contempt seemed to increase. I was at last bold enough to walk the streets in his company. " (Swift 2458). Don Pedro assists the plot by persuasively pushing Gulliver to return to his hometown in England and try to weave back into society. “Don Pedro {…} put it upon me as a point of honour and conscience that I ought to return to my native country, and live at home with my wife and children. ” (Swift 2457). Although Don Pedro’s intentions were kind and comely, the attempt was a failure.

Once arrived in Redriff, his hometown, he realised that he was not cured. “The sight of them filled me only with hatred, disgust and contempt; {…} my wife took me in her arms, and kissed me; at which, having not been used to the touch of that odious animal for so many years, I fell in a swoon for almost an hour. ” (Swift 2459). In conclusion, Don Pedro De Mendez serves as a function of making the antagonist reflect on whether he shall return to the world of the Yahoos or not, in this sense Jonathan Swift uses his character as a plot mover thus demonstrating a bridge between two worlds.

Don Pedro also serves as a summary clearly stating the most important part of the climax to the readers so they may understand better what is going on. In general, Swift uses Don Pedro as a coin flip; on one side we find the rational world of the Houyhnhnms and on the other side the “irrational” world of the Yahoos or humankind. If you compared the situation between the Houyhnhnms and the Yahoos to present society throughout the world, how rational are we exactly?

Difference in opinions has cost many millions of lives: for instance, whether flesh be bread, or bread be flesh; whether the juice of a certain berry be blood or wine; whether whistling be a vice or a virtue; whether it be better to kiss a post, or throw it into the fire; what is the best colour for a coat, whether black, white, red, or gray; and whether it should be long or short, narrow or wide, dirty or clean; with many more. Neither are any wars so furious and bloody, or of so long a continuance, as those occasioned by difference in opinion, especially if it be in things indifferent. (Swift 2432).

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Gulliver’s Travels: Don Pedro de Mendez. (2016, Dec 21). Retrieved from

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