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. ”
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