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An Essay On Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal

1043 words - 4 pages

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Short Paper: On Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal

Jonathan Swift in his piece, A Modest Proposal, uses satiric devices, mathematical equations and ludicrous logic to make the reader think about the enormity of the problems present in Ireland. By using the primary text, A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift and secondary texts such as; Donald Baker's Tertullian and Swift's "A Modest Proposal"; Barbara Bengels' Swift's A MODEST PROPOSAL; and Erin Hoepfinger's DISCOVERING JONATHAN SWIFT THROUGH DERRIDA, MILLER, AND DE MAN this paper will show how Swift creates empathy for the poor and their children with his unique writing style.

Swift's proposal, which is in the unique form of a political pamphlet, shows the reader the reality about Ireland; specifically the way the poorer people are treated and the way they are thought of by those in a higher economic and social class. Because Swift used the form of a political pamphlet he is stating through the medium of the political pamphlet that "He has an idea which he will share, and in this sharing he has the confidence that we, as readers, will act and follow the suggestions of the said proposal" (Hoepfinger 26). This medium along with the humour we find in A Modest Proposal lends itself to "force a fellow to let out a guffaw, [as] it does create a sense of wry lip curling" (Hoepfinger 27). This type of humour as Bruce Jackson states may be "more appropriate that the literal truth" (qtd. In Hoepfinger 27). This allows the reader of the piece to get involved in the social commentary Jonathan Swift is presenting.

One of the social aspects A Modest Proposal talks about is how the shortage of food for those without money has contributed to the starvation and poor conditions of a high percentage of the population. Barbara Bengels' writing on clothing in Jonathan Swift's proposal illiterates this point and focuses on how the poorer people are portrayed through the clothing they wear. Examples of clothing showing an economic standing in Swift's piece include; "Beggars of the Female Sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags" (502); "exactly at one Year old [...] they shall [...] contribute to the Feeding, and partly to the Cloathing, of many Thousands" (503); and finding "Food and Raiment, for a Hundred Thousand useless Mouths and Backs" (509). Barbara Bengels then goes on to write that Jonathan Swift uses clothing to show us the extent of Ireland's degradation in that "Ireland, without the ability to manufacture its own goods, must go in rags" (14).

Swift in his proposal is able to accentuate the absurdity of these situations by presenting cannibalism as a logical and...

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