Here are a few answers culled from the Fall 1995 final. I originally posted them to give students some idea of what constitutes a good answer to an essay question (how much detail is required, what sort of terminology might be used, how substantial such an answer should be). By now, I suppose whatever students were going to consult them have done so. I want, nevertheless to leave three of these up simply because they pleased me when I first read them and they still please me. Enjoy.
Question (worth 50% of the exam):
Lemuel Gulliver has taken a "wrong turn" somewhere mentally and ended up in a life governed by one or more serious misconceptions (with disastrous results to both himself and his family). Pretending that you are John Milton, explain to Gulliver where he has gone wrong and how he must change his thinking if he is to regain his "sanity."
My dearest Mr. Gulliver:
I have read your accounts of your long and extensive travels, and as a dear friend I feel the need to make you see. First of all, you must take a day to sit down and read my book. I attempt to explain the ways of God to man, you know. You seem like you could use some explaining. Read it to your horse, he may enjoy it as well.
We all have a certain place in this world and the next. It is called the great chain of being, and it is crucial that we stay where God intends us to be. Most people need to worry about the desire to increase their status on this chain. Satan tempts us with pride and vanity just as he did with Eve in the garden. You have the opposite problem in that you have fallen into despair and seek to place yourself lower than your given rank on the chain of being. While it is worse to try to raise yourself in pride, it becomes almost as dangerous to sink because of despair. Allow me to give you an example. Satan needs to go lower on the chain in order to trick Eve. He enters into the body of a serpent and is surrounded by the filth of the inside of a snake. At this point Satan seems capable of even lower and more devious acts. Satan flatters Eve to the point where it is revolting. Your condition is a bit different, I admit, because Satan deserves to be the lowest possible point on the chain. You, Lemuel, have done nothing wrong to force yourself and your family to be as low as to be disgusted with yourself.
God made you a human being--not a houyhhnm or a yahoo. Be happy with that. If He intended you to consider yourself a yahoo, you would have no language skills, no need for clothing, and you would be an animal. None of those apply to you. These creatures, both the houyhnhnms and the yahoos, are part of God's plan. They, too, have their place in the chain of being.
Now, I would like to address your idea that houyhnhnms are higher than humans. They have no shame, and furthermore they are blatantly proud creatures. During your time there, you were never once treated well. You weren't even treated like a yahoo. They amused themselves with you and at your expense. They poked and prodded you to tell them things that would make them look better. This pride is the worst of all sins, and to be frank, the whole idea resembles Satan climbing into the serpent's body. His motivation was the same, to make himself better--to raise himself above God. These houyhnhnms do not even have a god, but they still firmly believe that there is no higher than themselves. How Proud! Is this really what you aspire to? Do you want to be a proud, shameless creature who has no God to worship:?
You do not have to fear. God is merciful. He forgave Adam and Eve. He will forgive you as well. Close your eyes for a moment. Darkness may help you to see. Blindness helped me. Ask yourself where God wants you and then go there.
God Be With You,
(by Lenore Olsen)
Oh my! Mr. Gulliver, what have you done? Here you are, eating alone, living alone, angry, despairing, wearing the skins of men on your back!! You have sinned, my friend, most horrendously. All of your misconceptions, all of your sins can be traced back to a single evil, Mr. Gulliver, Pride.
Pride, Sir, has caused you to disrupt the great chain of being. Here you are thinking yourself like a God, denigrating all of humanity, and praising the name Equus in place of Our Lord's. Pride, sir, has made you forget your subservience to God. Pride has left you faithless and grey. Pride is your sin, and the cause of all that ails you.
Look what pride has led you to! You are a hater of men, calling them "Yahoos," enslaving them, raising them no higher than a dirt-eating dog, or a tree-dwelling monkey, even wearing their backs on yours. How low, sir! How despicable!
Pride has led stronger beings than you astray. Pride first led Satan to take up arms against the Lord, thinking he could shake the Creator of the universe from his throne. Pride, hurt pride, led the Adversary to rebuild in vile Hell and venture outward. Pride, Mr. Gulliver, led Eve herself to think herself capable of divinity, causing her fall.
But what is the cause of your pride, Mr. Gulliver? Your supposedly superior rationality, taught to you by those deceitful beasts the Houyhnhnms? Let me tell you something about these thinking beasts you so admire, sir. First, do not forget the manner in which Satan deceived Eve. Yes, he took the shape of a beast and breathed sinful language into it. Much the same have you been misled. The Houhyhnhnms espouse their veracity, yet they lied to you sir, neglecting to inform you of your eventual dismissal. They are proud of their knowledge, yet they cannot bring themselves to ever fully believe your tale of an island across the aeas. They contend that their reason leads to justice, but they not only practice the enslavement of men, but also of certain colors of their own species. They do not care for their mates, nor for their children. They even practice genocide. They are comppletely without compassion, Mr. Gulliver--as are you. But that is not all that they lack, my friend, no--there is still one further thing which they, and you, have neglected: religion.
And it is within this very realm of neglect that your salvation shall be found. Just as Adam and his wife regain their [?] after their fall, so must you, Mr. Gulliver. You must repent; remember, Jesus gave himself over to death for your sins. You must review your faith, letting go of your insolent pride in your faulty rationality. Faith must be your light, elsewise you will fall ever further into darkness; though it be darkness visible it will glow only to strength your despair, adding fuel to your misery. You must remember your God, sir, His benevolence, His power, His grace, and His justice. There is no peace without Him, only more of the pain I already discern within you . . . [answer ends thus]
(by Michael Knapp)
Mr. Lemuel Gulliver--
It has come to my attention after reading your journal that was published recently that you are out of your mind! How you could possibly imagine that a race of horses is superior to the human race is absurd! Obviously, you have spent a large amount of time away from society and you are delerious. Hopefully my letter will be able to bring you back to reality.
I myself am a learned man. Although I am handicapped by my loss of vision, I still have my wits about me. I can see by your rejection of English society that you have realized the failings of man. I, too, have seen this; however, I have not completely disowned my own race. Please do remember that you will never become a Houyhnhnm no matter how much you attempt to assimilate to them.
You mention the idea of veracity in your journal. Have you truly achieved complete personal truthfulness? Several times you withheld information from the Master Houyhnhnm. Is this the complete truth? You are also lying to yourself as you continue to live without God in your life. The Houyhnhnm culture is void of religion. Have you become an atheist, Lemuel? Only God is complete truth. Your life is headed in the wrong direction if you continue to ignore God's existence. He is the almighty being that you need to devote your thoughts and considerations to. He is very merciful, for He created even a bottom to Hell for Satan. It is not too late to accept this, Lemuel.
You are like Satan in his fall. Satan, like you, was very unhappy in his situation in hell. The Houyhnhnm culture may seem attractive to you; however, it is a deterrent from God. Satan fell from being an angel, a being superior to man, to being a serpent. You were never superior to man, and by identifying yourself with the Houyhnhnms you have lowered yourself from humanity.
You need to serve God while here on earth. You have a family. Your poor wife and children have been deprived of your presence. You have a responsibility to her and your family. You need to support them financially and by your wisdom. You are a wise man. You can see the follies of man. You need to go amonst them and tell them that they are disobeying God. Do not compare humans to Yahoos or Houyhnhnms. We are a race unique to ourselves. You need to glorify God in your daily life as Adam and Eve did in the garden.
Men are only persuaded with spoken words. One aspect the Houyhnhnm language lacked was persuasion. In order to aid English society you must be able to convince them of their misdeeds, much as I am trying to do now. It is a very large part of a decision-making process. Although Eve was very intelligent, she was still naive, and Satan was able to persuade her to eat the forbidden fruit. Therefore it is possible to persuade mankind to return to their God.
Please Lemuel, consider all that I have written. I am very happy to hear of your realization that man has fallen and is wallowing in his follies. However, you yourself are fallen and are lost in your own thoughts and ideas. Don't be like Satan and continue to fall into Hell. Rethink your beliefs and reenter society and tell of the misconceptions of men--the love of money, sex, alcohol and its effect. Just as Michael told Adam of hope in Christ's second coming, I tell you too of the hope: there is a better life after this time on earth and you need to be prepared. Please feel free to continue corresponding with me.
(by Eva Fisher)