The Exaggeration in the World Illustrated in a Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
Exaggeration, of appearance, money, and ability. Many things are exaggerated in a world clouded by the importance of vain amenities. In “A Modest Proposal”, Jonathan Swift uses style elements diction, and hyperbole, to characterize the narrator who is a member of Irish decent as a self-absorbed, ignorant member of rich and powerful society, whom are revealed to have a complete lack of humility through their barbaric solution of eating children to solve overpopulation to “take care of” the poverty-stricken members of their society.
Through Swifts’ use of diction in “A Modest Proposal”, he sheds light on the ignorance and self-absorption of rich members of society, through their harsh characterizations of those in poverty. This characterization showcased through the word choice he chooses to use when describing these “professed beggars”, including references to the wives as “breeders” and murdered children as “carcasses of barreled beef”, and “fat yearling” children, asking to be “roasted whole”, calling them “creatures in human figure”, by comparing those in his society who are economically challenged to livestock of sorts such as cows, pigs, and goats, animals whom are regarded as simple substance and nothing more, lacking in intelligence and individual thought, being one of complete submission to the mighty human who “must” kill to stay alive is a prominent example of the narrators ignorance(1115 Swift). By these strongly worded descriptions of humans that he walks past every day, he has zero regard for their personal thoughts and opinions believing them to be incompetent and of less worth than him or the rest of rich society due to their lack of money or resources. Some of the words that he uses to describe his “modest proposal” are also huge indicators of the narrators self-absorbed and ignorant nature. He refers to his “solution” as “cheap, easy, and effectual,”, by his careful “calculation” of his “remedy”, he has concluded that his solution is the only plausible one to improve the current state of his country(1117). By characterizing his plan as being cheap and easy, with proven calculations of the benefits of monetizing human life, he is completely ignorant to the opinions of those who would be affected by his plan, which are the same people that his self-absorbed nature has convinced him that he is helping. His use of diction, help to highlight his complete lack of regard for the percentage of the population he claims that he is helping, which is most likely present in the rest of rich, ignorant, self-absorbed society.
In “A Modest Proposal”, Swifts use of hyperbole is a powerful tool when showcasing the gloating self-absorbed nature of the narrator, and complete ignorance toward his lack of humility, representing the opinions of the rest of rich and powerful society. He believes his plan to consist of “visionary thoughts”, “of no expense and little trouble” to anyone effected. Thinking “of no objection that will possibly be raised against this proposal”, displaying it to be the only plausible solution to the spread of beggars and poverty in Ireland (1119). By his large exaggeration of the quality of his plan and its effective nature he is in turn showing his ignorance toward those who the plan would affect, and his complete lack of humility, wishing to be the god sent that he believes his society needs. His self-absorbed nature is displayed through the countless benefits he believes his plan will have. He predicts “one thousand families” to “be constant customers”, of the murdered baby stewed meat, referring to abortions as the “horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children”, from those who are “horrid and inhuman breast”, the concept of his plan is to kill babies of beggars, yet he refers to abortions as a horrid and demonic act when he is proposing a mass murdering of innocent children that have already been born (1114). He believes that other members of rich society will have no problem knowingly purchasing human meat and consuming it without a feeling of guilt or disgust highlighting his ignorant nature toward the parents of the babies that would be consumed as well as the complete lack of remorse that he believes the rich and powerful members of society such as himself will have toward consuming human flesh. Through Swifts use of hyperbole through the narrator’s description of his visionary plan, his ignorant and self-absorbed nature is once again displayed.
In “A Modest Proposal”, Swifts use of hyperbole and diction characterize the narrator as a self- absorbed and ignorant member of rich and powerful society, modeling all privileged society to have the same belief system as the narrator. His complete disregard of poor society, whom he compares to livestock and sustenance and faces with cold calculations when justifying the murdering of their children, as well as extreme exaggerations of the quality and effectiveness of his plan are essential in the characterization of the rich and powerful narrator.
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