A Modest Proposal and Other Satires
Commentary on Jonathan Swift's Essay "A Modest Proposal"
Jonathan Swift cleverly illustrates a very “humble” solution to the crisis in Ireland in his personal essay, “A Modest Proposal. ” His voice urges annoyance and frustration, evoking a tone of sarcasm. Through the use of cynical language, he creates an intense and informative response. He uses language to create imagery which he intends to elicit a response of shock and moral responsibility. His intention is to mock Ireland and the economic crisis they have got themselves in.
Swift appropriately chooses strong imagery and describes a “melancholy object” that comes from walking through Irish streets and seeing “beggars of the female sex” and “three, four, or six children, all in rags.
” Swift wants this image to convey the severe challenges that Ireland is facing. These women are panhandling for food, instead of working “for their honest livelihood,” and that influences their children to do the same or leave for the “Pretender in Spain.
The “deplorable state” of Ireland is causing grave situations for the impoverished.
The English Protestants have been mistreating the Irish, and England has “consumed” Ireland. Because of England, Ireland faces a lack of power, and Swift uses this verisimilitude in order to take advantage of his satire and to present the “devouring” of poverty-stricken infants of Irish born mothers. The circumstances in Ireland at that time, the key parallel between both situations are their shared consequence: a country destined to collapse.
Swift’s arguments against their current “schemes” of Ireland are well constructed and convincing. The children or the mothers will no longer beg for “charity” on the streets. “A child will make two dishes,” and will be offered in sale to people. This will bring quality and fortune, through the nation. He has “maturely weighed the several schemes of other projectors. ” He believes that these “schemes” are much miscalculated in their “computation. ” If the previous “schemes” had worked then there would be no poverty or “voluntary abortions.
He uses strong diction to let one know that he is not proud of his country or the people. His proposal makes complete logical sense. He has everything figured out. Certain terms he uses when he compares the Irish children to farm animals, and that they should be “consumed. ” Diction such as “stock,” “pigs,” “cattle,” “fatten them up,” all imply to Swift’s analogy to people and livestock. This implies that the Irish just stand around and bend down to an authority of a higher power, and also that the English treat the Irish as worthless workers.
The Irish are valuable in financial means to their owners and so are livestock. The Irish just marry and bear children, and wait for wealth to come. This is just what the English want, they want the Irish to be weaker and not take a stand. Therefore, Swift quite subtly proposes that instead of these children being a burden on the already poor parents, the children should “contribute” themselves to the nation in a form of food or clothing. Swift uses imagery to set the tone of voice and to consistently keep it going throughout the essay.
He conjures up images to create an illusion that the solution to the economic crisis in Ireland is quite effortless to solve. Swift is expecting the Irish people to understand that they are responsible of the crisis and they have no patriotism towards their own country. This imagery is created because of language, he expects the people of the nation to do something about the “distresses” being faced. Swift consistently repeats women and children “begging,” he wants to clarify that he’s not only writing an essay about the economy but also about moral responsibility of the nation.
He explains about the “voluntary abortions;” these women murder their children because they can’t afford to provide for their children. He constantly explains the “present distresses,” expressing his frustration and shame towards the country. Swift is generous with his disdain and his ironic representations are not only meant to criticize the society of Ireland, but also to motivate the Irish to take action in rectifying the damage that Ireland has tolerated. Swift has no other motive but to only hope for the public good and “public consideration. ”
A Modest Proposal Questions
1.The initiator perceived that the worst problems in Dublin were the poverty level being very high and that poor children are a burden to their parents because of the cost to take care of them. The issues that trouble him make him appear to be someone who cares about the economic well being of his country but not the well being of the people because he sees poor children as a burden to their families and society. 2.The initiator uses a serious tone to explain his solution and six main methods to try to persuade readers to accept his proposal.
He states his solution would decrease the amount of Roman Catholics, the poor would have some money to pay their landlord, and the economy would grow. He also declares that the parents would no longer have to take care of their child after year one, a new popular food would be created, and there would also be an increase the tenderness of mothers towards their children.
3.Breeder frequently replaces mother in the proposal creating the perception that the initiator sees people as numbers; he doesn’t see people for who they are. 4.The expert is a cannibal, which suggests that the initiator is a cannibal or is exceptive of cannibalism. 5.Being a satire, A Modest Proposal, is an ironic title because the solution the initiator proposes is anything but modest, since he suggests roasting children. Although, the author also makes the initiator’s solution sound ridiculous to create the idea that readers should pity the poor Irish, creating a modest proposal. Being modest is being humble and Swift’s proposal to feel bad for the poor isn’t asking much. 6.a. Some shocking details of life the essay reveals would be that some poor Irish woman are selling themselves to planters in Barbados, Ireland is in a horrible economic situation and that England is oppressing Ireland. b. The previous details cause the reader to feel sympathy for the Irish people in their time of hardship and disregard the proposal of the initiator because he is probably of wealth since his attitude is insensitive.
7. Swift intends for the reader to disregard the proposed solution of the initiator and accept the modest proposal. Swift uses the outlandish remarks of the initiator to create the feeling of sorrow for the Irish people due to their poverty and their struggles with England. 8. The major targets of this satire would be the wealthy and the noblemen because the satire mocks the heartless attitude towards the poor that the rich exude. The Irish are responsible for their sorry situation because Ireland doesn’t export enough goods, which harms their economy and as well as the fact that the Irish sell their goods for more than they are worth, but not many people can afford their high prices. Another way the Irish are accountable for their own plight is because poor people continue to have children that they cannot afford to take care of.
An Analysis of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”
Satire as a form of discursive practice may be properly understood if it is contextualized within a particular culture, institution, attitude, or belief. It is only by placing the satire within a particular setting [as presented by the elements mentioned above] that a satire will garner the “non-linguistic components covering the preparatory preconditions necessary for the construction of satirical discourse” (Simpson 70). An example of the satire as a form of discursive practice is evident, for example, in Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”.
In the aforementioned work, Swift presents a situation wherein the persona of his text urges the population on acts of cannibalism in order to lessen the problems caused by Irish overpopulation. The persona starts his proposal with an initial description of his surroundings. He notes, “It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town…when they see the streets…crowded with beggers of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for alms” (Swift 52).
It is important to note that such a description is characterized by the persona’s detachment towards his surroundings. Note for example, the manner in which a two senses of the concept ‘object’ is used. The aforementioned passage thereby portrays not only the persona’s ‘objective’ appraisal of his surroundings but also the persona’s ‘objectification’ of the individuals encompassed within that area.
Such an objectification is further evident in the following passage: Some persons of a desponding spirit are in great concern about the vast number of poor people, who are aged, diseased, or maimed…But I am not in the least pained about that matter, because it is very well known that they are everyday dying, rotting, by cold, and famine, and filth, and vermin, as fast as can be reasonably expected. (Swift 56)
The persona’s use of the two senses of object, in this sense, may be understood as a manner in which Swift portrays the irony evident in the context of the text. The irony is evident if one conceives of “A Modest Proposal” as a text which presents a delimited view of the world. As opposed to a satire’s ironic presentation of a particular situation [in fact an ironic portrayal of a particular mindset], humor, on the other hand, portrays the manner in which worldly interests are given more credence as opposed to lofty ideals.
An example of this is evident in Samuel Beckett’s writings wherein Beckett focuses the text to the importance of existence [as well as the importance of the meaning of existence] in relation to the ordinary objects. As opposed to a satire which might present a bland ethnocentric perspective regarding racial discrimination, the emphasis on modern humor would be on the problematic construction of such concepts that enable racial discrimination to exist [e. g. opposition of black and white].
In line with this, Colebrook notes, “both irony and humor play off the gap between concepts and world” (241). The difference, however, lies in the difference of presentation noted above.
Colebrook, Claire. Irony in the Works of Philosophy. Nebraska: U of Nebraska P, 2003. Simpson, Paul. On the Discourse of Satire: Towards a Stylistic Model of Satirical Humor. Philadelphia: John Benjamin’s, 2003. Swift, Jonathan. “A Modest Proposal. ” A Modest Proposal and Other Satirical Works. New York: Dover, 1996.
A Modest Proposal: An Analysis
One of the “Tory writers,” “a talented satirist” (Abjadian 87), Jonathan Swift was born on November 30, 1667, in Dublin, Ireland. His father-an Englishman who had moved to Ireland-died earlier that year. Receiving financial assistance from relatives, Swift attended a good school for his basic education and graduated from Trinity College in Dublin in 1686. He lived off and on in England, became an Anglican clergyman, and eventually was appointed dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, although he had lobbied for a position in England.
His writing-especially his satires-made him one of the most prominent citizens in Great Britain, and he worked for a time on behalf of Tory causes. His most famous work is Gulliver’s Travels, a book of satire on politics and society in general. “Despite health issues, Swift continued to write prolifically-especially on issues concerning Anglo-Irish relations and the church. He decried what he viewed as England’s oppression of Ireland in ‘A Modest Proposal’” (deGategno and Stubblefield 8) Swift died in Dublin on October 19, 1745.
“A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick,” commonly named as “A Modest Proposal,” is a Juvenalian satirical essay written and published anonymously by Jonathan Swift in 1729. The essay was originally printed in the form of a pamphlet.
At the time of its publication, 1729, a pamphlet was a short work that took a stand on a political, religious, or social issue-or any other issue of public interest. A typical pamphlet had no binding, although it sometimes had a paper cover. Writers of pamphlets, called pamphleteers, played a significant role in inflaming or resolving many of the great controversies in Europe in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, as well as in the political debate leading up to the American Revolution. In addition to “A Modest Proposal,” Jonathan Swift wrote many political pamphlets supporting the causes of the Tory political party after he renounced his allegiance to the Whig party.
“A Modest Proposal” is an essay that uses satire to make its point. A satire is a literary work that attacks or pokes fun at vices, abuses, stupidity, and/or any other fault or imperfection. In Abjadian’s words, “satire is often considered as a corrective means of human vice and folly” (11). Satire may make the reader laugh at, or feel disgust for, the person or thing satirized. Impishly or sardonically, it criticizes someone or something, using wit and clever wording-and sometimes makes outrageous assertions or claims. The main purpose of a satire is to spur readers to remedy the problem under discussion. The main weapon of the satirist is verbal irony, a figure of speech in which words are used to ridicule a person or thing by conveying a meaning that is the opposite of what the words say.
Readers unacquainted with its reputation as a satirical work often do not immediately realize that Swift was not seriously proposing cannibalism and infanticide, nor would readers unfamiliar with the satires of Horace and Juvenal-“the two distinguished Roman satirists” (Abjadian 13)-recognize that Swift’s essay follows the rules and structure of Latin satires.
“The fine satiric strategy in A Modest Proposal” (Williams 26) is often only understood after the reader notes the allusions made by Swift to the attitudes of landlords, such as the following: “I grant this food may be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for Landlords, who as they have already devoured most of the Parents, seem to have the best Title to the Children” (Swift 1080). Swift extends the metaphor to get in a few jibes at England’s mistreatment of Ireland, noting that “For this kind of commodity will not bear exportation, and flesh being of too tender a consistence, to admit a long continuance in salt, although perhaps I could name a country, which would be glad to eat up our whole nation without it” (1084).
Over the centuries, England gradually gained a foothold in Ireland. In 1541, the parliament in Dublin recognized England’s Henry VIII, a Protestant, as King of Ireland. In spite of repeated uprisings by Irish Catholics, English Protestants acquired more and more estates in Ireland. By 1703, they owned all but ten percent of the land. Meanwhile, legislation was enacted that severely limited the rights of the Irish to hold government office, purchase real estate, get an education, and advance themselves in other ways. As a result, many Irish fled to foreign lands, including America. Most of those who remained in Ireland lived in poverty, facing disease, starvation, and prejudice. It was this Ireland-an Ireland of the tyrannized and the downtrodden-that Jonathan Swift attempted to focus attention on in “A Modest Proposal” in 1720.
Some scholars have argued that A Modest Proposal was largely influenced and inspired by Tertullian’s Apology. While Tertullian’s Apology is a satirical attack against early Roman persecution of Christianity, Swift’s A Modest Proposal addresses the Anglo-Irish situation in the 1720s. James William Johnson believes that Swift saw major similarities between the two situations (563). Johnson notes Swift’s obvious affinity for Tertullian and the bold stylistic and structural similarities between the works A Modest Proposal and Apology (562).
In structure, Johnson points out the same central theme; that of cannibalism and the eating of babies; and the same final argument; that “human depravity is such that men will attempt to justify their own cruelty by accusing their victims of being lower than human” (563). Stylistically, Swift and Tertullian share the same command of sarcasm and language. In agreement with Johnson, Donald C. Baker points out the similarity between both authors’ tones and use of irony. Baker notes the uncanny way that both authors imply an ironic “justification by ownership” over the subject of sacrificing children-Tertullian while attacking pagan parents, and Swift while attacking the English mistreatment of the Irish poor (219).
Purpose of the Proposal
Swift appears to suggest in his essay that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies. By doing this he mocks the authority of the British officials. This is when Britain had taken over Ireland and put heavy restrictions on their trade, stifling their economy. The essay has been noted by historians as being the first documented satirical essay. A critic (qtd. in Williams) in Journal Anglais, in 1777 states,
To ridicule those schemes for reform with which the public was inundated at that time, and which often insulted the misery to which they affected a desire to bring consolation. It will be noticed that Swift has imitated the common expressions and the insinuating tone of the authors of these projects (199).
He wrote “A Modest Proposal” to call attention to abuses inflicted on Irish Catholics by well-to-do English Protestants. Swift himself was a Protestant, but he was also a native of Ireland, having been born in Dublin of English parents. He believed England was exploiting and oppressing Ireland. Many Irishmen worked farms owned by Englishmen who charged high rents-so high that the Irish were frequently unable to pay them. Consequently, many Irish farming families continually lived on the edge of starvation.
In “A Modest Proposal,” Swift satirizes the English landlords with outrageous humor, proposing that Irish infants be sold as food at age one, when they are plump and healthy, to give the Irish a new source of income and the English a new food product to bolster their economy and eliminate a social problem. He says his proposal, if adopted, would also result in a reduction in the number of Catholics in Ireland, since most Irish infants-almost all of whom were baptized Catholic-would end up in stews and other dishes instead of growing up to go to Catholic churches. Here, he is satirizing the prejudice of Protestants toward Catholics. Swift also satirizes the Irish themselves in his essay, for too many of them had accepted abuse stoically rather than taking action on their own behalf.
Regarding the style used in the essay, William Monck Mason states,
The cold, phlegmatic style [in A Modest Proposal] of a political projector, who waves the consideration of all the finer feelings of humanity, or makes them subservient, as matters of slight moment, to the general advantages proposed in his plan of financial improvement, is admirably well satirizedâ€¦. The cool, ‘businesslike’ manner, in which the calculations are stated, is equally admirable (340).
…..In “A Modest Proposal,” Swift uses a standard essay format: an opening that presents the topic and thesis (the “modest proposal”), a body that develops the thesis with details, and a conclusion. In the opening, the author states the problem: the deplorable economic and social conditions that impoverish the Irish and prevent them from providing adequate care for their children. Before presenting the thesis, he inserts the following transitional sentence: “I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection” (Swift 1080) He follows this sentence with the thesis, and then presents the details in the body of the essay.
In the conclusion, he states the benefits that would accrue from his proposal. He begins with the following two sentences: “I have too long digressed, and therefore shall return to my subject. I think the advantages by the proposal which I have made are obvious and many, as well as of the highest importance.” He next lists the advantages, using transitional words such as secondly and thirdly to move from one point to the next.” He ends the conclusion by explaining why his proposal is superior to other remedies. Keep in mind that throughout the body and conclusion Swift makes his argument with irony, stating the opposite of what he really means.
The dominant figure of speech in “A Modest Proposal” is verbal irony, in which a writer or speaker says the opposite of what he means. Swift’s masterly use of this device makes his main argument-that the Irish deserve better treatment from the English-powerful and dreadfully amusing. For example, to point out that the Irish should not be treated like animals, Swift compares them to animals, as in this example: “I rather recommend buying the children alive, and dressing them hot from the knife, as we do roasting pigs.” Also, to point out that disease, famine, and substandard living conditions threaten to kill great numbers of Irish, Swift cheers their predicament as a positive development:
Some persons of a desponding spirit are in great concern about that vast number of poor people, who are aged, diseased, or maimed, and I have been desired to employ my thoughts what course may be taken to ease the nation of so grievous an encumbrance. But I am not in the least pain upon that matter, because it is very well known that they are every day dying and rotting by cold and famine, and filth and vermin, as fast as can be reasonably expected. And as to the young laborers, they are now in as hopeful a condition; they cannot get work, and consequently pine away for want of nourishment, to a degree that if at any time they are accidentally hired to common labor, they have not strength to perform it; and thus the country and themselves are happily delivered from the evils to come (1082).
In “Sarcasm and Irony in Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal,” a critic, regarding the irony in the essays, maintains,
One of the voices that is present throughout the story is that of irony. The story itself is ironic since no one can take Swifts proposal seriously. This irony is clearly demonstrated at the end of the story; Swift makes it clear that this proposal would not affect him since his children were grown and his wife unable to have any more children. It would be rather absurd to think that a rational man would want to both propose this and partake in the eating of another human being. Therefore, before an analyzation can continue, one has to make the assumption that this is strictly a fictional work and Swift had no intention of pursuing his proposal any further.
There are some allusions in the essay including Barbadoes (Barbados): Easternmost West Indies island, settled by the British in 1627. When Swift published “A Modest Proposal” in 1729, the island’s plantation owners used slaves to produce sugar for European consumption; Dublin: The Irish city mentioned in “A Modest Proposal.” It is the capital of Ireland; Formosa: Portuguese name for Taiwan, a Chinese-inhabited island off the southeast coast of China; Mandarin: High-ranking Chinese official; Papist: Roman Catholic; Pretender: James Francis Edward Stuart (1688-1766), son of King James II, who ruled England, Ireland, and Scotland from 1685 to 1688. James II was a Catholic, as was his wife, Mary of Modena. After his accession to power, Protestant factions continually maneuvered against him in the background. When Mary became pregnant, these factions worried that the birth of her child would establish a line of Catholic kings. Consequently, they plotted to oust James II and replace him with Dutchman William of Orange, whose mother was the daughter of an English king, Charles I, and whose wife was one of James II’s own daughters. When William marched against England, many Protestants in James II’s army deserted to William, and James had no choice but to flee to France. After he died in 1701, the French king then proclaimed James II’s young son, James Francis Edward Stuart, to be the rightful king of England. The English Parliament then enacted laws designed to prevent seating another Catholic king. Nevertheless, in succeeding years, James Francis repeatedly attempted to regain the throne, and the British eventually nicknamed him the Old Pretender. Psalmanazar, George: French forger and impostor who traveled widely under different personas. In one of his most famous schemes, he pretended to be from Formosa (present-day Taiwan), of which little was known in the Europe of his time. In London, he published a book about Formosa in which he wrote that Formosan law permitted a husband to eat a wife if she committed adultery. Psalmanazar had never visited Formosa; the whole book was made up. Nevertheless, many Englishmen believed what he had written.
There some themes explained and referred to in the essay. The themes like the exploitation of the downtrodden. Beneath Swift’s audacious satire is a serious theme; that English overlords are shamelessly exploiting and oppressing the impoverished people of Ireland through unfair laws, high rents charged by absentee landlords, and other injustices. Another theme is the prejudice: At the time of the publication of “A Modest Proposal,” many British Protestants disdained Roman Catholics-especially Irish Catholics-and enacted laws limiting their ability to thrive and prosper. One important theme of the work is the Irish Inaction; Swift’s satirical language also chides the Irish themselves for not acting with firm resolve to improve their lot. Another theme is, as Barnett refers to, “the theme of unwelcome reproduction are the wretchedly poor mothers of Ireland in A Modest Proposal, whose children, as the subtitle informs us, are ‘a Burden to their Parents or Country’” (121).
It has been argued that Swift’s main target in A Modest Proposal was not the conditions in Ireland, but rather the can-do spirit of the times that led people to devise a number of illogical schemes that would purportedly solve social and economic ills. Swift was especially insulted by projects that tried to fix population and labor issues with a simple cure-all solution. A memorable example of these sorts of schemes “involved the idea of running the poor through a joint-stock company” (Wittkowsky 85). In response, Swift’s Modest Proposal was “a burlesque of projects concerning the poor” (88) that were in vogue during the early 18th century.
A Modest Proposal also targets the calculating way people perceived the poor in designing their projects. The pamphlet targets reformers who “regard people as commodities” (Wittkowsky 101). In the piece, Swift adopts the “technique of a political arithmetician” (95) to show the utter ridiculousness of trying to prove any proposal with dispassionate statistics.
Critics differ about Swift’s intentions in using this faux-mathematical philosophy. Edmund Wilson argues that statistically “the logic of the ‘Modest proposal’ can be compared with defense of crime (arrogated to Marx) in which he argues that crime takes care of the superfluous population”(Wittkowsky 95). Wittkowsky counters that Swift’s satiric use of statistical analysis is an effort to enhance his satire that “springs from a spirit of bitter mockery, not from the delight in calculations for their own sake” (98).
Robert Phiddian’s article “Have you eaten yet? The Reader in A Modest Proposal” focuses on two aspects of A Modest Proposal: the voice of Swift and the voice of the Proposer. Phiddian stresses that a reader of the pamphlet must learn to distinguish between the satiric voice of Jonathan Swift and the apparent economic projections of the Proposer. He reminds readers that “there is a gap between the narrator’s meaning and the text’s, and that a moral-political argument is being carried out by means of parody” (Phiddians 6).
While Swift’s proposal is obviously not a serious economic proposal, George Wittkowsky, author of “Swift’s Modest Proposal: The Biography of an Early Georgian Pamphlet”, argues that it in order to fully understand the piece, it is important to understand the economics of Swift’s time. Wittowsky argues that not enough critics have taken the time to directly focus on the mercantilism and theories of labor in 18th century England. “[I]f one regards the Modest Proposal simply as a criticism of condition, about all one can say is that conditions were bad and that Swift’s irony brilliantly underscored this fact” (Phiddians 3). At the start of a new industrial age in the 18th century, it was believed that “people are the riches of the nation”, and there was a general faith in an economy which paid its workers low wages because high wages would mean workers would work less (4). Furthermore, “in the mercantilist view no child was too young to go into industry”. In those times, the “somewhat more humane attitudes of an earlier day had all but disappeared and the laborer had come to be regarded as a commodity” (6).
“People are the riches of a nation”
Louis A. Landa presents Swift’s A Modest Proposal as a critique of the popular and unjustified maxim of mercantilism in the eighteenth century that “people are the riches of a nation” (161). Swift presents the dire state of Ireland and shows that mere population itself, in Ireland’s case, did not always mean greater wealth and economy (165). The uncontrolled maxim fails to take into account that a person that does not produce in an economic or political way makes a country poorer, not richer (165). Swift also recognizes the implications of such a fact in making mercantilist philosophy a paradox: the wealth of a country is based on the poverty of the majority of its citizens (165). Swift however, Landa argues, is not merely criticizing economic maxims but also addressing the fact that England was denying Irish citizens their natural rights and dehumanizing them by viewing them as a mere commodity (165).
Charles K. Smith argues that Swift’s rhetorical style persuades the reader to detest the speaker and pity the Irish. Swift’s specific strategy is twofold, using a “trap” to create sympathy for the Irish and a dislike of the narrator who, in the span of one sentence, “details vividly and with rhetorical emphasis the grinding poverty” but feels emotion solely for members of his own class. Swift’s use of gripping details of poverty and his narrator’s cool approach towards them creates “two opposing points of view” which “alienate the reader, perhaps unconsciously, from a narrator who can view with ‘melancholy’ detachment a subject that Swift has directed us, rhetorically, to see in a much less detached way” (Smith 136).
A Modest Proposal, A (1729), a pamphlet by Jonathan Swift on Ireland, written during the summer of 1729. In form and tone it resembles a conventional philanthropic appeal to solve Ireland’s economic crisis, but Swift’s anonymous speaker suggests a barbarous plan, to cannibalize the nation’s children. It is a masterpiece of rhetorical irony, a disturbing fiction which marks the end of Swift’s pamphleteering role on national affairs after a decade of passionate involvement.
The essay depicts the horrific conditions of Ireland and the lives of the Irish people in 1729. The author portrays and attacks the cruel and unjust oppression of Ireland by its oppressor, the mighty English and ridicules the Irish people at the same time. However, Swift’s opposition is indirectly presented. Jonathan Swift is able to do so by using the persona, irony, and wit in order to expose the remarkable corruption and degradation of the Irish people, and at the same time present them with practicable solutions to their unscrupulous and pathetic lives. The author uses a satire to accomplish his objective not only because he is able to conceal his true identity but also because it is the most effective way to awake the people of Ireland into seeing their own depravity.
Swift creates a fictional persona because by hiding his true identity he is able to convince the readers of the significance of Ireland’s problem and allow them to see truth and reality. The persona is a concerned Irishman who is very intelligent, sound, and serious. He appears to be a brute and a monster for proposing something evil and immoral very calmly as if it is normal to consume the flesh of another human being. What makes his proposal to be even more depraved is that he proposes to eat the babies. The persona declares, and at exactly at one year old that I propose to provide for them, in a such a manner as, instead of being a charge upon their parents, or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for the rest of their lives, they shall, on the contrary, contribute to the feeding and partly to the clothing of many thousands. The persona justifies his proposal with numerous reasons.
Besides the prevention of voluntary abortions and infanticide, it will also prevent the loss of money for maintenance of children and the abuse of women and children. The number of Papists would be reduced and the children will not become beggars, thieves, or prostitutes. The proposal will aid in the increase in the status of the peasantry, promote love, and care from the mothers towards their children. However the persona alone is inadequate to make the narrator seem too plausible. The persona must utilize irony and wit in order for his essay to be more efficacious. In fact, according to deGategno and Stubblefield, it is “the kind of callous indifference toward children that Swift parodied and criticized in “A Modest Proposal” (69).
A Modest Proposal is so effective and appealing because of the authors’ copious uses of irony throughout his essay. The title itself is definitely ironic. It provides the reader with false expectations of decency and sensibility on the part of the writer. The butchery of innocent babies and the use of their skin for clothing is way beyond being modest. It is brutal and insane. The proposal is intended to shock and throw the reader off balance. The narrator also ridicules the Irish. Swift impelled and inspired the Irish into rebelling by presenting them with feasible solutions to cease the anguish of Ireland’s people.
Rhetorical Analysis of Jonathan Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal’
A Modest Proposal is a satirical pamphlet that examines the attitude of the rich towards the poor starving children in their society. Jonathan Swift uses a number of rhetorical devices effectively as he highlights his proposal. He uses logical fallacies, metaphors, repetition and parallelism as well as humor, sarcasm and satire tone to highlight these negative attitudes.
Jonathan swift begins by mocking and blaming the mothers of the children by telling them that they should engage or find themselves in working to earn an honest living instead of strolling to beg for alms.
He also predicts tough future for these children that when they grow up they will turn to be thieves. This is simply because the parents did not train their children the modest way of life.
Swift uses logical fallacies to make his argument in ‘A Modest Proposal’. His way of argument and thinking is incorrect and lack validity in what is proposing. This is evident in this pamphlet on line 69 to 73, ‘that a young healthy Child well Nursed is at a year Old, a most 71 delicious, nourishing, and wholesome Food, whether Stewed, Roasted, 72 Baked, or Boyled, and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a Fricasie’.
He notes down that a young healthy child is a delicious food to be roasted, stewed and boiled to be served and eaten. Secondly, he has computed twenty thousand children to be reserved for breeding. This dehumanizes the children to be like animals.
Jonathan swift uses emotional appeal in his argument by proposing slaughter houses to be erected or built in suitable places and butchers to be employed to do the work of slaughtering the children. He further exaggerates by saying that the children will be roasted like pigs. Jonathan knows clearly that this proposal will affect many because no person would want his or her child to be butchered. Beyond that, Swift captures the reader’s emotion on line 34 and 35 ‘prevent those voluntary Abortions, and that horrid practice of Women 35 murdering their Bastard Children’. This is a horrific behavior that is being opposed everywhere in this world.
Another rhetorical device that Jonathan Swift use in his work is irony. He says ‘I calculate there may be about two hundred thousand couple whose wives are breeders’ and ‘how this number shall be reared and provided for’. This suggestion is ironic because he compares women to animals. Also, this creates a good argument because human beings do not breed and cannot be reared. He therefore dehumanizes human beings and creates satire in this statement.
Jonathan swift in his scheme of supporting his argument, he is sarcastic that certain body parts of a child are good to eat. He further clarifies that in certain occasion, the body parts will be on demand. He further suggests that good and healthy children will be skinned and the skin will be used to make admirable gloves for ladies and summer boots for gentlemen. This idea is ridiculous to an extent that children will not only be a delicacy, but their body parts will be used to make ornaments. Secondly, he sarcastically suggests option to Ireland to counter its economic problems. Jonathan proposes that if the poor children can be food, this will create a good revenue to the country through exporting the surplus child’s flesh to the rich outside Ireland. Thirdly, Swift computes the selling price of one child to be ten shillings. This is recorded on line 103-105 ‘I believe no gentleman would repine to give Ten Shillings for the Carcass of a good fat child, which, as I have said will make four Dishes of excellent Nutritive Meat’. He proceeds and make fun of the mothers that they will get eight shillings profit to use until they will able produce another child.
Swift applies a sympathetic tone in his proposals, especially at the beginning. In paragraph two, he is requesting for amicable and a permanent solution to help these children from deplorable state they are living. He goes ahead to award anyone who will find cheap and easy method of making these children useful by building a statue in his or her memory. Jonathan’s tone is not constant in his recording of his proposals. He later changes to scary tone as he progresses to give his personal opinions about these children. For instance, he talks of butchering these children to be made delicious food and skinning of the children to make admirable gloves for ladies and summer boots for gentlemen. This tone shocks and creates fear for the reader.
Analysis "A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift
A Modest Proposal’ is a sarcastic leaflet that inspects the disposition of the rich towards the poor starving youngsters in their general public. Jonathan Swift uses various explanatory gadgets adequately. He utilizes consistent errors in reasoning, rhetorical devices, repetition and parallelism just as amusingness, mockery, and satirical tone to feature these negative mentalities. Swift effectively persuades the audience that the English landlords are making use of the penniless Irish by using the the rhetorical triangle that consists of ethos, logos and pathos to make a good argument in the writing.
Swift uses fallacies to make his argument in this writing. His way of argument and thinking is incorrect and absence of validity in what is proposed. This is evident in this pamphlet, ‘[T]hat a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled, and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout'(Swift 757) .
He notes down that a youthful sound of a child is a delectable nourishment to be simmered, stewed and bubbled to be served and eaten. Besides, he has figured twenty thousand youngsters to be saved for rearing.
This dehumanizes the kids to resemble creatures. He further overstates by saying that the youngsters will be simmered like pigs. Swift knows that this proposition will influence numerous in light of the fact that no individual would need their kid to be butchered. ‘[P]revent those voluntary abortions, and that horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children'(Swift 757). This is a terrible conduct that is being contradicted wherever in the world.
A rhetorical device that Swift uses in his work is irony. He says, ‘[I] calculate there may be about two hundred thousand couples whose wives are breeders[…] how this number shall be reared and provided for’ (Swift 757). This suggestion is ironic because it compares women to animals. Additionally, this makes a decent contention since people do not breed and can’t be raised. He dehumanizes individuals and makes satire in this statement.
Swift in his plan of supporting his contention, he is sarcastic that specific body portions of a youngster are a great idea to eat. He further explains that on certain occasions, the body parts will be on request. ‘[T]hose who were more thrifty[…] may flay the carcass; the skin of which artificially dressed will make admirable gloves for ladies’ is extremely disturbing and sickening, but still makes people imagine wearing babies as an accessory or an item of clothing (Swift 758).
He also brings many things that the audience is passionate about and associates them to his argument. Jonathan Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal, ‘ uses ethos, logos, and pathos to effectively convince or persuade the audience that the English landlords are using the poverty-stricken Irish. Swift shows the effects of emotional reasoning and how it plays with the reader’s mind.
Evolution of Childhood
- 1 Abstract
- 2 Conclusion
To understand the developments in the current industrial society, one must take a closer look at the view of children during the neoclassic and romantic periods of our history. In his book A Modest Proposal, Jonathan Swift discusses the role of social classes in determining a child’s role in the society, albeit in a satirical way.
During the neoclassical period, industrial technology had not surfaced. Therefore, European parents had to toil or work harder to put food on the table. These involved long hours of manual work in the farms. However, long hours of action did not guarantee a higher yield. The inconsistent weather patterns at times determined harvests. Therefore, if a child was born to a low-income family or a developing nation, then he or she would be viewed as a burden to the family or the state. As a result, various mechanisms were set up to prevent children from being burdens to the state or their families.
By then, Ireland was one of the poorest European countries. This made it hard to raise a child in this nation (Day 96). To make it worse, the English or the British policy towards Irish was not friendly. This made it harder for the parents to raise children in Ireland. Swift then suggested that the Irish parents should sell their children into the British labor.
Selling children into labor was a common trend during this era. Low-income families could not afford to educate and feed their children well. Therefore, some children accompanied their parents to work. They worked for the elite families in Europe. Still, the pay was not good enough. This meant that they could barely improve their economic status. Some parents and their children had to exchange their labor with food. Consequently, most of the work they did was for survival, not to improve their families’ economic status or conditions.
Education was not a right but a privilege that few children could afford. The mode of education or the curriculum was based on enhancing a child’s way of reasoning or thinking. This encouraged the rise of philosophy and the increasing interests in science. The focus of some education institutions were based on challenging the religious and political authority of the Catholics (Hindman 103). This was because the church played crucial roles in their lives. Also, there was a continuous struggle or frictional relationships between the Catholics and the Protestants. Children born from wealthy families could afford education. However, this was not the same case to children born of poor parents. At times, the parents could not afford the fee required for their education, or the children were just busy working to help their families make ends meet.
Gender was an important issue in European neoclassical societies. Males were regarded superior than the females. Therefore, the males had additional privileges compared to their female counterparts. To ensure the continuity of this ideology or belief, it played a crucial role in the bringing up the children. Boys could be taught matters of leadership while the females could be taught matters of domestic chores, boys were also taught issues of management.
This is because they had the right to inherit their father’s property. Therefore, it is believed that there was a close association between fathers and their sons. Similarly, girls enjoyed close associations with their mothers.
Romantic era ushered in new ideas of compulsory school attendance and nationalism. In fact, it coincided with the first industrial revolution in Britain. As a result of the revolution, machines were coming in to replace human labor. This led to the establishment of first industries in Europe. The introduction of machines in the process of production led the creation of employment opportunities, development and widening gaps in social classes and finally increased European population due to the availability of more food.
In his poem “The Chimney Sweeper”, William Blake brings into our attention the prominence of child labor during the Romantic era. Machines brought good changes to the society, however, they enslaved people into the belief of economic success. As a result, more people started to strive harder to improve their social and economic status. Therefore, one can easily say that as much as machines improved efficiency or made work easier and brought more food to our tables, it took our children with it and the introduction and prominence of child labor.
Religion played a crucial role in the development of a child’s labor. According to religious teachings, we are taught to embrace the sufferings of the world to gain rewards in the afterlife. Given that the Romantic era was a period of strict religious tolerance, children (especially boys) and as young as four and five years were sold to industrial labor. Also, the form of religion during this period was deeply rooted in European conservatism. Therefore, words from the Bible were regarded as laws. This hindered the concepts of liberalism in bringing out new ideas.
In most industries across Britain, children worked as chimney cleaners. In some, they did other light duties such as sorting out and cleaning some work tools. To most of their parents, this was an act of preparing their children to embrace the difficulties of life in order to make them ready for rewards that come after death, in the afterlife. Such religious arguments led to the prominence of child labor in London and the entire romantic era.
Education played a central role in this period. The curriculum placed more emphasis on sciences, arts, and law (Bassler 67). Unlike the neoclassical period, most children went to school during the romantic era. This was attributed to two factors. First, more parents were employed at the industries. Therefore, they could afford to take their children to school. Finally, many European nations wanted to focus on national development. Education was therefore made mandatory as it played a central role in a nation’s political, economic and social development.
Gender still played a crucial role in the raising of children. To preserve the status quo, boys had upper hands in social, political and economic roles. However, the notion that boys are stronger made them more vulnerable to industrial exploitation. In England and other countries in Europe like France, boys as young as four and five years were taken to work in the factories. They did light duties but at times had to clean the sooty chimneys. The pay they received was used by their parents to raise the families.
Girls, on the other hand, were taught to embrace domestic roles. They stayed at home and took care of their younger siblings. At times, older girls would prepare mills for the families. However, they had no right to own property. In most cases, they were not included in inheriting their family’s’ property.
It’s therefore evident that our historical timelines played crucial roles in childhood. For example, during the neoclassical period, the needs of the society influenced how the children were brought up. This is because the societal needs influenced the parents and governments priorities. However, one can quickly point that the industrial revolution played a significant role in changing the mode of bringing up children. For example, the romantic era was deeply influenced by the first industrial revolution that began in England (Hassel 23). This led to new priorities in education and labor demands from the children. One can say that the need for child’s labor increased during the romantic era than during the period of the neoclassic era. This change can be attributed to the industrial revolution.
For preventing the poor people on streets, from taking our sidewalk side space and money, and making them beneficial to the economy. By Hailey Wright When you are walking the streets of downtown, and all you see is smelly, dirty homeless people begging for money. All they do is take up all the space on the sidewalks with their cardboard signs and begging for money, annoying people while they walk by the homeless because they are scary and harmful.
Instead of them trying to find a job, theyre always asking for money and when they do get money, they never use it for food and water, theyll most likely spend it on drugs. Homeless people make our cities look horrible, dirty and poor which gives our cities a bad reputation. Theyre a burden to our society and something needs to be done about it. There is no reason for such dirty people to be apart of what seems to be a clean society. The homeless are bringing down the look of this society and environment. The look they are giving our environment is a poor, dirty, uninviting look that scares people away. As a proposal, they should be forced to work extra hard so that the higher class of society dont have to work as hard. After all the homeless are taking up all of the space for free, so they might as well do all of the dirty work no one else has any interest in doing, to get it over with.
Maybe that will make them seem like a less of a burden to our society. If that does not work, we can just ship them off to an island for the homeless so we do not have to worry about them anymore. But it also makes since to place these people in some type of imprisonment too. That will clean up the streets for sure. With help from these proposals there should be no reason for such dirty people to continue to be apart of our society. Once the homeless is gone, the city will become more inviting, and appealing to visitors, this might even make some want to stay. Firstly, we could build more homeless shelters and provide them with more resources to feed them and help them get back on their feet. Secondly, we can could take abandon houses and instead of tearing them down or just letting them rot away we could turn them into homes for them homeless.
Thirdly, we could give them jobs and help them little jobs like cleaning up the roads or cutting the grass for government buildings just to help them make a little bit of money. But none of that will work because no one is willing to put in the work help out others when they need it most, they are just selfish and only care about themselves. I do not have any real intentions in trying to imprison people or send them away just because they do not have a place to sleep or anything to eat.
We just need to help others out more and help these people find a way to seek shelter and food. Weather we do this by sending more food to food backs and shelters or weather it be helping them find jobs there is a real solution here that can be taken to fix this epidemic. The amount of homeless people in the United States is ridiculous and we should really do something about it because people are suffering.
A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
- 1 A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
- 1.1 Works Cited
A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
How Swift uses satire to express his true feelings of the situation in Ireland
Jonathan Swift, a well-known writer did many topics and used satire in his works to express his message. This was a technique he used to reach his audience and make sure the message reached the targeted group. In this research paper, we will focus at discussing one of the topics he did.
Among the research topics done by the narrator include; how capitalism deals with its problems, criticizing Catholicism, how the sale of children meat will benefits lives of adults and how the sale of children meat will benefit the economy (Swift, 2016 p 203).
In all these, irony has been used to reach the audience. Jonathans main objective as shall be found in this essay, wanted to gauge the readers thinking capability and ability. He wants the audience to read his work and from it, reason out. He puts his work in a manner that requires intuitive reasoning and thinking. We shall analyze Jonathan Swifts use of satire to express his feelings for the people of Ireland considering the situation that was prevailing in the country.
Jonathan Swifts modest proposal aimed at drawing peoples attention world-wide and initiating the process on how the plight of Irish people could be helped out. Ireland was a country where there was widespread of poverty. Therefore, in order to fully capture the attention of his readers, he uses satire to motivate the readers to try and find out the plight of Irish people and come up with possible solutions. The essay portrays the writers feelings and attempts to lure them in having the same feeling for the situation in Ireland.
This has been achieved through irony. Irony is the way of expressing an idea through the opposite of what is actually happening (Doody, 2014 p 196). In irony, the writer position on a subject matter is not readily known by the readers. The readers are expected to go beyond this ordinary view and be able to read through the writers mind. Swift successfully employed this technique to pass his message by instilling sarcasm and humor in his audience. Through satire, the readers were able to get more interest on reading the Irelands situation. This then enabled them to follow up on the story until its conclusion.
Due to the nature of the issue, the writer had to hide his identity. The need for hiding ones identity while employing the use of irony is so as to make sure the readers do not take the narrations as a sense of humor. Jonathan was a protestant and had witnessed the kind of treatment the English colonists subjected the Irish people unto. Jonathan used satire to alert the public on how the English authorities practices brought suffering to the common people. The rich and the powerful applied practices which greatly undermined the common people. There was a lot of poverty in Ireland and Jonathan used irony to explain this situation.
In his article, one of the instances in which he successfully uses irony is that of eating babies by the colonists. Ireland was a poor nation and different schools of thought tried to connect this to the population (Marshal, 2015 p 134). It was believed that the country was overpopulated and therefore, the only solution to address poverty this poverty situation was to eat the babies he laments on how authorities resorted to eating babies in an attempt to solve the problem. Eating babies is a satirical theme the writer introduces, which basically refers to the act of selling babies by parents upon recommendations by the authorities. The babies were supposed to be sold in order to provide for their parents. In order to get money for food and other needs, the authorities recommended that the parents sell out their babies. So widespread was the practice that prompted Jonathan to publish the occurrence of such activities.
The practice of selling babies is what the writer means when he says authorities eating babies. The writer used this theme because he had already grown up children and his wife was not going to have more children who could be sold by the authorities (Swift, 2016 p 209). Therefore, he believes that this narration will not affect him and his family at any particular time. In other words, Jonathan portrays a situation of man-eat society in Ireland. The authorities were inhuman to the extent of suggesting the selling of children to solve the poverty situation in Ireland. This act touched Jonathan and motivated him to do works on the situation and expressed his feelings to this effect. The practice disturbed him to the extent of provoking his feelings and eventually putting what was happening in writing. He therefore, provokes his readers through this irony to come up with ways of addressing this poverty situation and relieve the Irish people from unnecessary suffering.
The writer is seeking for a different interpretation into the whole issue. He wants the readers to think in the opposite direction and be able to deduce the facts presented. Jonathan opposes the authorities policy on selling of the baby, which has been successfully hidden. Apart from concealing his identity, the writer also wants the people of Ireland to wake up and oppose the injustice they were being subjected to. A rational reader is able to find out what the narrator is trying to pass out. He chooses not to use direct meanings so as to avoid any case of being taken out of context. Also, this choice of not being direct in his reporting is so as to increase the interest of his readers to want more from the narrations.
The proposal at the beginning, describes the living conditions of Irish common people. So bad is the situation that the writer acknowledges the mess and wants an immediate solution from his target audience to address this menace. To lead by an example, he goes ahead to provide suggestion on the best way to solve the deplorable condition of the common peasant Irish people. After posing this suggestion which in itself is ironical, he sarcastically gives the benefits of such a solution. In his solution, Jonathan sarcastically supports the idea of eating/ selling children to enhance the economic status of common people whose majority was made up of peasants. He states that for the poverty to be eliminated, parents should consider selling babies to the willing buyers. There was an already established market where these babies could be sold out.
Among the ironical advantages Swift gives are; first and foremost, by selling babies, the parents will relieve themselves from the burden of taking care of the children when they grow up. To him, poor parents will be able to make some good money from the sale of their babies. They can later use this money to better their lifestyles and maintain themselves (Swift, 2016 p 210). Therefore, parents should take the step of releasing themselves the burden of rearing children to the old stage. The reader should however, come up with viable solutions contrary to this. Swift also suggests that the sale of babies will greatly reduce the population which according to many, is the main cause of poverty in Ireland. Selling babies will ensure the future population is reduced and eventually reduce the overpopulation currently witnessed. When this happens, poverty will have been eliminated.
A research done in 2015 had shown that Ireland had a total of 120,000 children (Swift, 2016 p 200). This is the data Jonathan Swift uses to express his feelings for the peasant people, in an attempt to sell out his idea to the public. He recommends that out of this number, 20,000 can be spared and allowed to breed locally of which 5,000 should be male gender. The remaining 100,000 are then supposed to be cared for well and given enough food to make them more attractive to the buyers (Marshal, 2015 p 134).
The narrator states that these babies should suck their mothers breasts for nutrients especially at the time when they are about to be sold. This breast feeding will help them grow and attract the buyers. They ought to be sold later in the year when they have able to fetch some good money. This is the way Jonathan presented his case in his modest proposal on the situation of Ireland people. Ireland is brought out as a very poor country whose people are languishing in poverty. The narrator of this situation, Jonathan Swift shares greatly in their displeasure.
Jonathan Swift has successfully presented his thought and feelings concerning the bad state of Irish people. Although he seems to be for the idea of selling babies, a deeper analysis reveals otherwise. He chose this style so as to attract public recognition and fasten the whole process of coming up with an option to solve the poverty.
Jonathan wanted his readers to come up with a human solution which could be acceptable world-wide. He therefore sarcastically gives a solution which an ordinary thinker may oppose. His primary aim was to enable readers think out of the box and suggest alternative solutions, contrary to what he is advocating for. Jonathan Swift did this so as to hide his identity and that of his family. He sought to communicate to his readers and had no intentions of revealing who he was.
In conclusion, the world should come to the plight of Irish people. Having read the story on the situation, a discussion need to be started world-wide to solve this problem once and for all. Suggestions should be given on how best the mess can be solved so that no other country is befallen by the same challenges.
The act of selling babies was simply a learning tool for the audience to think more about the issue. This is a practice which if allowed to continue, will kill the generations to come. Some of the recommendations that can be adopted include; empowering the people within economical activities to enable them provide for themselves. To address the overpopulation problem, the country should sensitize its population on the need to implement family planning. Family planning will ensure that the resources are not over burden by high population.
When the world comes together, a better solution will be arrived at. In giving suggestions however, key attention should be given to the kind of recommendations to adopt. The Irish people as explained above are in a condition that requires urgent and meaningful solutions that help even the generations to come. Jonathan did reveal the situation of Ireland and it now remains the responsibility of those who have read his piece of work to do the necessary. The readers should get disturbed and initiate the process of arriving at a solution.
- Alff, David. “Swift’s Solar Gourds and the Rhetoric of Projection.” Eighteenth-Century Studies 47.3 (2014): 245-260.
- Doody, Margaret Anne. “11 Swift among the WomerHI.” Jonathan Swift (2014): 196.
- Marshall, Ashley. Swift and History: Politics and the English Past. Cambridge University Press, 2015.
- Muecke, Douglas Colin. Irony and the Ironic. Vol. 12. Taylor & Francis, 2017.
- Wood, Nigel. Jonathan Swift. Routledge, 2014.
- Swift, Jonathan, et al. Irish Political Writings After 1725: A Modest Proposal and Other Works. Cambridge University Press, 2016.
Modest Proposal Is An Essay
The art of confrontation can be handled in many different ways. Some may use a passive aggressive technique to make others know they are offended or something needs to change. Few people use a direct confrontation technique by approaching the person with the opposing view and having an outright dispute with them leaving nothing unsaid.
There are others who avoid confrontation at all cost because they are scared of the outcome or afraid of disappointing the opposing party. A Modest Proposal uses a confrontational language called satire. Satire is used in several literary works to point out flaws by using sarcasm, irony, and ridicule. This type of approach has often been used by writers to shed a light on necessary political or social change, or to prevent such change.
A Modest Proposal is an essay about a concept to help prevent poor peoples children from being a burden to the country and their families. The goal of the proposal is to find an idea to help these children better the community and stop this from happening in the future. In order to grab the attention of the audience the author, Jonathan Swift, used a satirical writing style for his essay. He jokes on previous ideas other people have proposed to solve the big problems in their society.
The other ideas are almost as absurd as the actual proposal by Swift. Although these proposals are unusually dramatic, they do cause leaders in government and other spheres to take a closer look at the true problems in their society. A proposal to eat infant babies should never be considered a rational proposal but its motives should be evaluated.
In his essay, Swift made a comment about the carcasses of the infants being used for ladys gloves and gentlemens boots. When he presented this idea it dehumanized infants and made them comparable to animals whose bodies are utilized for numerous different products. This is an example of Swift using sarcasm to attract the readers and hold a mirror to the face of the community so they see there is a real problem which needs to be fixed. Swift goes on to insert proposals from his friends, one of which suggested fourteen year olds could be eaten as well.
This statement is satirical but goes into detail about concerns people had about the taste compared to infants and the fact it would limit the number of breeders. This idea in particular had a conflicting argument because the problem was overpopulation in the first place. Swift’s last proposal was him saying he had nothing to gain economically from this proposal. This statement alone mocks the other individuals who gave proposals to fix the problem of overpopulation because they were serious about their proposal even though it was just as absurd as Swifts.
Jonathan Swift had to choose a satirical method of confrontation in his writing simply because he would not have received a response if he expressed his true beliefs. If he would have written his opinion and true beliefs about the state of the lower class in Ireland which truly felt was shameful and something must be done to help them, the essay would not be read around the world like it still is today. He would have had little success because there were several other straight forward proposals circulating at the time. It was hard for anyone to write a piece addressing societys issues which had a lasting effect but Swift realized people like to criticize and they like to laugh.
A satirical parody had a greater chance of getting the publics attention in a way a standard essay could not achieve. A Modest Proposal surprised people and got them thinking about the condition of the poor in Ireland and what should be done about it. Swift realized when addressing and critiquing very sensitive subjects such as the nations religion and its authorities it is much safer to us a satire rather than directly challenging authority. The audience is entertained by the sarcasm but still able to see through the sarcasm to the real issue. A direct approach may be the obviously best choice but its not always the most effective as shown by A Modest Proposal.