Analysis Of Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal

June 22, 2022 by Essay Writer

Suggesting the nation alleviate its issue of poverty by using the children of the underprivileged Irish population as livestock to feed the rich – making the starving children in Ireland useful members of the commonwealth in a cheap and easy fashion. Crude commentary on England’s both legal and economic exploitation of Ireland is considered a masterpiece of satire. Title represents any proposition to restore issues with a barbaric yet effective cure.

Essay is written by Jonathan Swift, also known as the master of satire. Misanthrope, hated humanity & everything came along with it. Essay is an aggressive form of satire on British society.

Essay was written in the first half of the Eighteenth Century. Around the time the aristocracy started losing its power to the middle class in the United Kingdom, time when satire began to emerge as a literary genre due to this increase in dissatisfaction. The literary genre itself reflected enlightenment philosophies, and was used to criticize the aristocracy in a secure manner.

Historical context

During 18th century, literary works reflected the rationalism of the enlightenment; emphasis on reason was recognizable across genres. Swift – as well as others – used irony to satirize humans’ claim to reason. Swift suggested only few humans behave rationally, and humanity is only reasonable in theory. When originally published in 1729, Ireland was essentially being consumed by the protestant British Empire, who completely suppressed the Catholic Irish population and neglected to consider the welfare of the largely impoverished population. Swift composed his harsh satirical proposal of children being used as food in order for the Irish population to escape their economic despair.

Brief description

Author uses strict economic reasoning accompanied by a form of moral self-righteousness. In essence he is suggesting for the poor, starving children to be fattened up and eventually fed to Ireland’s rich landowners. At the age of one these children can be sold into meat market; combatting both overpopulation and unemployment, sparing families expenses & improving culinary experience of wealthy & contributing to overall economic well-being of Ireland. Giving many ridiculous reasons for his argument, he generally states that the implementation of this will help solve Ireland’s complex social, political & economic problems. Quite a cocky tone; “whoever could find out a fair, cheap, and easy method of making these children sound, useful members of the commonwealth, would deserve so well of the public as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.” followed by; well I’ll give it a go then.

Literary elements

It is a classic example of a Juvenalian satire due to Swift’s angry tone and indignation over British colonialism. Swift’s economist persona shows throughout his proposal; especially when he provides the reader with specific statistics; stating that 20,000 may be reserved for breed, of which one quarter to be male, and that the remaining may be sold for their flesh at a year old. Leads the reader to believe that his proposal is sincere and meant for literal interpretation. Besides the proposal’s true Juvenalian nature and the inherent irony of the text, no other literary devices have been used in the proposal due to its academic nature.

Swift has written a satire so sharp and ahead of his times that it is still relevant today.


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