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A Modest Proposal, By Jonathan Swift

1247 words - 5 pages

Irony is a beautiful technique exercised to convey a message or call a certain group of people to action. This rhetorical skill is artfully used by Jonathan Swift in his pamphlet “A Modest Proposal.” The main argument for this bitingly ironic essay is to capture the attention of a disconnected and indifferent audience. Swift makes his point by stringing together a dreadfully twisted set of morally untenable positions in order to cast blame and aspersions on his intended audience. Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” employs despicably vivid satire to call for change in a world of abuse and misfortune.
The entire proposal stands as a satire in itself; an analogy paralleling the tyrannical attitude of the British toward their Irish counterparts. In short, Swift suggests that parents of Ireland are owned by the British, and babies are property of their parents, therefore, England has a right to consume the Irish babies. Swift uses this syllogism throughout to show the British that their despotic reign in Ireland has left the miserable nation in poverty and disarray without any type of sustainable economy. Swift writes, “Some persons of a desponding nature are in great concern.” This is not simply a concern over the number of poor and malnourished in the country as Swift writes in the text; rather it is an ironic illustration of the Irish nation in shambles. The British have reigned over the Irish so long and so cruelly that they have left Ireland in a state of dependence psychologically, politically, and economically. In other words, the “ideology of Protestant consumption” has “actually eroded” the self-confidence and sense of worth of the Irish so badly that it has left Ireland unable to sustain itself (Mahoney). The “young healthy child well nursed” is a spoof on the relationship between England and Ireland (Swift). England is eating up Ireland. But this tribulation cannot be blamed solely on the British. Swift cleverly condemns the British aristocracy for their mistreatment of the Irish people while also criticizing the Irish people for allowing this exploitation.
The Irish have done nothing to halt the terrorizing nature of their domineering counterparts. Swift uses this proposal to describe the wretched situation in Ireland. By “rigorously underplaying the aspect of fantasy in his proposal,” Swift suggests the Irish have arrived at a condition in which such a plan may actually be seriously considered (Lockwood). Ireland is in such a dismal state that “the advantages by the proposal,” which Swift presents, are of the highest importance” (Swift). Merrily pitching his own ludicrous idea, Swift is mockingly attempting to elucidate the seriousness of the state of Ireland. Every detail of the proposal reveals the terrible conditions of Ireland through the eyes of a normal citizen. Through Swift’s vividly appalling arguments, the audience is “never allowed to forget that Swift hates the evil conditions more passionately than the speaker who...

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