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Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal Essay

1247 words - 5 pages


“A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift takes place in Dublin Ireland in the 18th century. The narrator is a very ironic character. His “modest” proposal is anything but modest. This short story takes place during a famine. Since there was a famine, Swift proposes the idea that people sell their one year old children to the rich so they would not be a burden to their family.
One important way in which the author engages the audience’s attention and tries to help his readers see deeper political, moral, and social truths and problems is through his use of irony. “A Modest Proposal” is a satire that is aimed at helping Swift’s contemporary readers to recognize how cold and calculating blunt rationalism is when used to address social problems such as poverty and overpopulation. In this short story the narrator is an ironic person. He is an ironic character because he appears to be blind to the awful moral suggestion of his proposals. The narrator’s proposal favors economic progress rather than showing any concern for the people he was talking about. This ironic narrator would make statements that would appear to be purely economic without seeming to realize the awful nature of his statements (Shmoop Editorial Team “A Modest Proposal Analysis”).
His “modest” proposal is anything but modest. It is savage, frightening, and even insane. He implies that his proposal is modest and humble, rather than a ridiculous, bold solution. His views become more ridiculous when he states that he cannot think of any objections that could possibly be raised against his proposal. “The crux of Swift’s satire is his supposedly realistic attitude towards solving the problem which is quite obviously not very realistic at all” (Mazzeno “summary”).
The narrator shows irony in “A Modest Proposal” when he criticizes the moral weakness of mothers. He criticizes the mothers who have “immoral abortions or commit infanticide” (Swift 384). It is very ironic that he goes on to say that a young child could serve as a snack for others. He states that a child could be killed to be eaten up to the age of one year old. In one of his most ironic statements, the narrator balks at the idea of eating teenagers because this borders on cruelty, as if his other statements were not cruel (Cummings “A Modest Proposal Study Guide”).
In this short story, the narrator suggests that the poor Irish could ease their troubles by selling their children as food for the rich. The mothers would take excellent care of their babies until time to sell them so they would be plump and healthy. They would make a large profit from selling their children and would be free to work afterwards until they had another baby. The husbands would take care of their wives and not beat them so they could prevent a miscarriage. The Irish tenants could then pay their rents with the money from the sale of their children. The narrator speaks as if this would solve all of the poor people’s problems (Porter...

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