Essay on Analysis of A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

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Analysis of A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

In his biting political satire called ?A Modest Proposal,? Jonathan Swift seeks to create empathy for the poor through his ironic portrayal of the children of Irish beggars as commodities that can be regulated and even eaten. He is able to poke fun at the dehumanization of the multitudes of poor people in Ireland by ironically commenting on what he sees as an extension of the current situation. Swift?s essay seeks to comment on the terrible condition of starvation that a huge portion of Ireland has been forced into, and the inane rationalizations that the rich are quick to submit in order to justify the economic inequality. He is able to highlight the absurdity of these attempted explanations by presenting cannibalism as a logical (although not particularly valid or sound), mathematically calculated alternative to the current situation. In doing so Swift is able to shock the readers into defending the poor. Through his emotionless tones and clever diction, Swift seeks to stir up the readers? feelings of indignation and compassion and thus help remind them that people are human beings and deserve to be treated as such, and not treated as figures in mathematical equations or pieces of meat.
He begins by sucking the readers in through addressing a very real problem; the proliferation of beggers accompanied by malnourished children. He mentions the ?deplorable state of the kingdom? where young children?s futures are so limited that they will either turn theives for want of work? or ?sell themselves? into slavery. As soon as swift has gained the readers? attention he switches into his ironic, methodical mode. He begins to attempt to appeal to authority through his mention of having ?turned (his) thoughts for many years upon this important subject. Before even mentioning what his intended proposal is, swift begins to speak in terms of computations and statistics and use diction to give the poor a sub-human quality in order to divert the attention from the horrific nature of what he is about to propose. Swift first hints that peasants are being treated as less than human by refering to a newborn baby as being ?dropped from its dam.? He then begins to refer t owives as not mothers, but ?breeders. After having almost entirely erased the human element of the famine, he then inductively introduces his grueso...

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... recognizes that, at this point, most readers will be very open to other suggestions other than feasting on the flesh of babies. Now, only after having used the most extreme shock shock tactics is Swift able to reach his audience with his true suggestions. At this point he juxtaposes his very logical solutions with his proposal, which serves as a metaphor for the rich?s exploitation (feasting on) the poor.
Through his use of satire and irony, Swuft?s writing reaches out to the readers to expose curroption and exploitation. Johnathan Swift is able to express his true voice and win the readers support while saying the exact opposite of what he truly means. He is able to toy with the emotions of the readers to the point where they are so shocked by and eager to disagree with his proposition that they find themselves more receptive to his true thinking.


Swift, Jonathan. "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 Public." 1729. Rpt. in Current Issues and Enduring Questions. Ed. Sylvan Barnet and Hugo Bedau. Boston, MA: St. Martin's 1996.

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