Greed And Power…The Death Of A Society

1093 words - 4 pages

In his satiric essay, A Modest Proposal, Jonathan Swift proposes eating children in order to highlight the fact that other plausible measures for fixing Ireland’s economic problems are being ignored. Swift implies that a nation’s most significant problems stem from the greed of the wealthy. He asserts this through his use of diction, satire, and ethos.
Diction is used by the author in order to imply that those who are financially blessed generate a nation’s biggest problems. Swift’s choice of formal yet derogatory diction projects his own perspective on how the rich view the poor. He uses the word “scheme” to describe his plan although he criticizes “several schemes of other projectors” (Swift 4). This is one of the first clues that helps to indicate that even Swift dislikes his idea, one aggressively bolstered by the rich who have money to gain. Words like “sacrificing…innocent” and “crucified” depict a savage death, usually in return for something that will benefit the greater good like that of Christ or a soldier dying when returning to a bombed area to save a small child (5 and 18). However, in this case, rather than sacrificing themselves, Swift explains that the rich will unfeelingly allow the poor to suffer unmentionable deaths in order for the rich to make enough profit to account for the “expensiveness of [their] idleness (28).” His choice of belittling diction through the words “savages” and “reserved for breed” points out the condescending way in which those of the upper class view the masses (10). These words show them as little more than uncivilized animals to be sold at the market, which through his proposal, would become a reality. Swift’s choice in diction helps to emphasize the widening schism between the rich and the poor that results from the former’s greed.
Swift also uses satire to show that the miserly behaviors of the rich proliferate society’s eminent problems. He begins by saying, “I humbly propose my thoughts,” which gives the reader a sense that the argument will be pushed lightly, with indifference as to whether the reader takes his argument seriously (8). However, Swift then goes on to say that he “hope[s] [it] will not be liable to the least objection (8).” The tone in which he presents this phrase is threatening and stark contradiction to his “humbly” proposed idea given earlier in the sentence (8). But, because throughout this piece, he is taking on the attitude of a wealthy person for the purpose of mockery, Swift is highlighting the fact that the rich will try to pass off their illogical ideas as humble and good. Furthermore, the threatening tone of the second part of the sentence conveys the rich as yielding immense over the poor and shows that they can easily push their ideas, although hurtful to society, without much ease. Swift also describes his American acquaintance, who offers refinement of his scheme, as a “very worthy person, a true lover of his country… whose virtues [he] highly esteem[s] (17).” From...

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