A Modest Proposal is considered one of the finest examples of satire in world literature. Written in the persona of a well-intentioned economist and published in the form of a popular pamphlet, the tract argues that the problem of poverty in Ireland can best be remedied by selling the children of the poor as food for the wealthy. At the same time Swift directs his satire at Protestant-Catholic divisions, contemporary economic theories, and other targets. A Modest Proposal has long been judged an incomparable work of rhetorical brilliance, and it continues to garner new readers and additional critical attention to this day.
Synopsis[ edit ] This essay is widely held to be one of the greatest examples of sustained irony in the history of the English language. Much of its shock value derives from the fact that the first portion of the essay describes the plight of starving beggars in Ireland, so that the reader is unprepared for the surprise of Swift's solution when he states: He uses methods of argument throughout his essay which lampoon the then-influential William Petty and the social engineering popular among followers of Francis Bacon.
These lampoons include appealing to the authority of "a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London" and "the famous Psalmanazara native of the island Formosa " who had already confessed to not being from Formosa in In the tradition of Roman satire, Swift introduces the reforms he is actually suggesting by paralipsis: Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: Of taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound: Of using neither clothes, nor household furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture: Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury: Of curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women: Of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance: Of learning to love our country, wherein we differ even from Laplandersand the inhabitants of Topinamboo: Of quitting our animosities and factions, nor acting any longer like the Jews, who were murdering one another at the very moment their city was taken: Of being a little cautious not to sell our country and consciences for nothing: Of teaching landlords to have at least one degree of mercy towards their tenants.
Lastly, of putting a spirit of honesty, industry, and skill into our shop-keepers, who, if Essays on the modest proposal analysis resolution could now be taken to buy only our native goods, would immediately unite to cheat and exact upon us in the price, the measure, and the goodness, nor could ever yet be brought to make one fair proposal of just dealing, though often and earnestly invited to it.
Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like expedients, 'till he hath at least some glympse of hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice. Population solutions[ edit ] George Wittkowsky 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.
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". 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 defence of crime arrogated to Marx in which he argues that crime takes care of the superfluous population".
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.
Lewis argues that the speaker uses "the vocabulary of animal husbandry"  to describe the Irish. Once the children have been commodified, Swift's rhetoric can easily turn "people into animals, then meat, and from meat, logically, into tonnage worth a price per pound".
In making his argument, the speaker uses the conventional, textbook-approved order of argument from Swift's time which was derived from the Latin rhetorician Quintilian.
James William Johnson believes that Swift saw major similarities between the two situations. 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. Let it be, that they exposed them; Add to it, if you please, for this is still greater Power, that they begat them for their Tables to fat and eat them: If this proves a right to do so, we may, by the same Argument, justifie Adultery, Incest and Sodomy, for there are examples of these too, both Ancient and Modern; Sins, which I suppose, have the Principle Aggravation from this, that they cross the main intention of Nature, which willeth the increase of Mankind, and the continuation of the Species in the highest perfection, and the distinction of Families, with the Security of the Marriage Bed, as necessary thereunto".
Economic themes[ edit ] Robert Phiddian's article "Have you eaten yet? Phiddian stresses that a reader of the pamphlet must learn to distinguish between the satirical 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". The Biography of an Early Georgian Pamphlet", argues that to understand the piece fully it is important to understand the economics of Swift's time.
Wittowsky argues that not enough critics have taken the time to focus directly on the mercantilism and theories of labour in 18th century England. 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".
Landa wrote that, "Swift is maintaining that the maxim—people are the riches of a nation—applies to Ireland only if Ireland is permitted slavery or cannibalism"  Louis A.
Landa presents Swift's A Modest Proposal as a critique of the popular and unjustified maxim of mercantilism in the 18th century that "people are the riches of a nation".A Modest Proposal Rhetorical Analysis Bennett Meyer Since the first British colonization attempts of Ireland the island had been a place of tyrannical oppression and prejudicial mistreatment.
This went on for centuries, with constant rebellion and resistance. In Jonathan Swift, an Irish clergyman living in England, denounced the cruel policies of England in a backwards manner. A Modest Proposal Jonathan Swift.
This entry presents criticism of Swift's satire A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of the Poor People from Being a Burthen to Their Parents, or.
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"A Modest Proposal" is one of the greatest examples of satire in the entire English language. It presents an absurd idea (the consumption of babies to solve the food shortage in Ireland) in a.
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