Analysis of A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
In his biting political satire called ?A Modest Proposal,? Jonathan Swift seeks to create empathy for the poor through his ironic portrayal of the children of Irish beggars as commodities that can be regulated and even eaten. He is able to poke fun at the dehumanization of the multitudes of poor people in Ireland by ironically commenting on what he sees as an extension of the current situation. Swift?s essay seeks to comment on the terrible condition of starvation that a huge portion of Ireland has been forced into, and the inane rationalizations that the rich are quick to submit in order to justify the economic inequality. He is able to highlight the absurdity of these attempted explanations by presenting cannibalism as a logical (although not particularly valid or sound), mathematically calculated alternative to the current situation. In doing so Swift is able to shock the readers into defending the poor. Through his emotionless tones and clever diction, Swift seeks to stir up the readers? feelings of indignation and compassion and thus help remind them that people are human beings and deserve to be treated as such, and not treated as figures in mathematical equations or pieces of meat.
He begins by sucking the readers in through addressing a very real problem; the proliferation of beggers accompanied by malnourished children. He mentions the ?deplorable state of the kingdom? where young children?s futures are so limited that they will either turn theives for want of work? or ?sell themselves? into slavery. As soon as swift has gained the readers? attention he switches into his ironic, methodical mode. He begins to attempt to appeal to authority through his mention of having ?turned (his) thoughts for many years upon this important subject. Before even mentioning what his intended proposal is, swift begins to speak in terms of computations and statistics and use diction to give the poor a sub-human quality in order to divert the attention from the horrific nature of what he is about to propose. Swift first hints that peasants are being treated as less than human by refering to a newborn baby as being ?dropped from its dam.? He then begins to refer t owives as not mothers, but ?breeders. After having almost entirely erased the human element of the famine, he then inductively introduces his gruesome proposal; child cannibalism. At this point, Swift has already subtly illustrated the gravity of Ireland?s current condition by implying that by treating the ?breeders? like animals, he is in fact improving their lifestyle, for the voluntary abortions that these women are forced to commit ? would move tears and pity to the most savage and inhuman beast.?
His use of diction relating to livestock as well as his cold, calculated tones and constant appeals to foreign authority mirror and comment upon the elite?s absurb rationalization for their abuse and exploition of the dredges of...