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A Modest Proposal And Ireland Essay

908 words - 4 pages

The pen is mightier then the sword. It is a saying that drives all great writers to strive to battle the injustices of their time. In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote "A Modest Proposal," which satirically showed the strife of the Irish people. Using satire, Jonathan Swift was able to make social critiques without direcrtly criticizing the English government. It also exposed the harsh and inhuman treatment of the Irish at the hands of their English oppressors. He points out this treatment by nonchalantly referring to stereotypes of the Irish throughout the essay.On page 53 of the text, Swift speaks of the uses of the children of the Irish. He has come across a beneficial idea acquired from an American. It turns out that he is proposing cannibalism. He uses grotesque irony to make people see the logical solutions to any problems with the Irish and to improve, over time, the lives of the Irish people.Using irony, he attacks the proprietors of the Irish people. They have devoured the Irish. On page 54, he computes in very dispassionate terms the costs & benefits of eating babies. Only in places like this does, he let his anger show through. Such cracks in the facade are necessary, or people will think that Swift is really making such a proposal.In this era, Catholics were not permitted to vote, marry a Protestant, join the armed forces, bare arms, even for protection, or be educated as Catholics abroad. They make up 70% of the population of around 2 million, yet own only 5% of the land. Farming in Ireland, although overseen by the advantaged English Protestants, is farmed by the greatly disadvantaged Irish Catholics. It is sadly inefficient. Protestants can leave in their wills property to their eldest son, maintaining the large estate size, whereas Catholics are forced to divide properties among all male heirs. Over time, the Irish lands shrink into tiny plots. Protestant property owners who often live in England; lease their farms to squireens (a rural landowner owning a relatively small amount of land), who further subdivided the expensive yet unimproved land to Catholic tenants. There is little incentive to make land improvements as this increases the value and therefore the rent. The result is frequent food production shortfalls. The eighteenth century in Ireland was a bleak time for the "untrustworthy majority." The Penal Laws, directed at their education, religion, and property rights, kept them poor and powerless.Jonathan Swift continued to speak out for the Irish, in more ways than a satirical essay. In "A Short View of the Present State of Ireland", he singled out the practice of the property owners, estimating that half the net revenues of...

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