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A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

Essay by   •  September 18, 2011  •  Essay  •  413 Words (2 Pages)  •  1,717 Views

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Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" is an essay full of satire and irony focusing on England's economic oppression and nonchalant attitude over Ireland during the early 1700s. Swift uses satire in his so called the "Modest Proposal" to shock his readers and embarrass the British. Satire being the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule. Swift uses his narrator's faulty logic and blind faith in his own moral reasoning to show the dangers of social policy that blame the poor and oppressed for their problems. Swift is attacking the wealthy landowners and those in the English government who support them in this essay. By using a narrator who confuses true reasoning with his own rationalizations and logic, Swift is cautioning against the dangers of being taken in by clever but faulty reasoning. Swift is also satirizing the narrator whose morally-blind.

One of the ways that the reader becomes aware of Swift's style is through his use of statistics. Of course, the readers realize that the statistics are imaginary and down right not realistic. One example would be when the narrator states that the number of souls in the kingdom being usually reckoned one million and a half, of those he calculated there to be about two hundred thousand couple whose wives were breeders. (page 484) "There remain only a hundred and twenty thousand children of poor annually born." (page 484)

In addition to the numbers, Swift carefully chooses his diction to emphasize the British disrespect of the Irish. The narrator borrows from animal terminology and explains in great detail how the children would be used and treated like animals. The narrator states it this way: " That a young healthy child, well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious, nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled" (page 485) It is also said that a child will serve at least two dishes at entertainment for friends. When they dine alone, just add a little salt and pepper and boil, that's a great dish, especially for winter. The reader now seeing that Swift is all but modest with his proposal.

Thus, Swift's use of satire within his "Modest Proposal" accomplished exactly what he wanted to. It was embarrassing and ignorant and so he hits his target with satire. The whole purpose of "A Modest Proposal" is to call attention to the problems that were being experienced by the people of Ireland. He does this that with his not so modest proposal.

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