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Humanity Versus Inhumanity: An Analysis Of Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal

1165 words - 5 pages

Through the creation of a pompous, highly educated and sophisticated proposer, in Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, the targeted audience, the absentee landlords and parliament of England, and the reader naturally identify with the proposer. The proposer’s rigorous logic, serious and cynical tone deduces the ghastly proposition of cannibalism for economic, political, moral, and nationalistic gain. However, through the targeted audience’s identification with the proposer, Swift is able to propose the ironic humanity of his satirical proposal and thus indict colonial landlordism in Ireland and in Enlightenment ideals. Swift’s proposer’s tone is used for both the ostensible and actual purpose of the proposal; through the adherence to the ideals of the Enlightenment, which would be that of the targeted audience, Swift is able to critique the ideology of logic and rationality as fundamental to morality in the proposal.
In the first few paragraphs of the Proposal, Swift characterizes the proposer as a sophisticated, civilized, and educated gentleman to relay the ostensible purpose of the proposal. The first few paragraphs manipulate syntax and are entirely devised of long-winded sentences explaining the situation in Ireland. The proposer presents his proposal of importance that he deserves “his statue set up for a preserver of the nation” (Swift 2633). Swift is emphasizing the proposer’s pompous tone; this proposal, according to the proposer, is a revolutionary solution to the problems of “the kingdom” (2633). Swift’s creation of the proposer’s opinions towards the “melancholy object” (2633) of the beggars of Ireland, mainly of Catholic religion, mirror those of the absentee landlords, causing an identification with the proposer and creates an accreditation towards the proposal as a legitimate attempt correct the “additional grievance” (2633). The first suggestion of the ostensible action being proposed is through Swift’s diction; the proposer discusses a “child just dropped from its dam,” suggesting the idea of children and their mothers as sheep (2633). Before revealing his proposal, the proposer presents a computation of the “breeders,” monetary capability of caring for offspring, and the offspring’s survival rate; this calculates the number of children who will become public nuisance to the kingdom and their parents (2634). The calculation is a reiteration of proof to the inability to provide for the number of poor in Ireland, and enhances the reader’s confidence in the proposal because the proposer acknowledges the problem rationally, logically, and mathematically.
Following the reveal of the proposal, the proposer’s tone shifts slightly; although Swift continues the pompous, serious tone of the proposer, there is a cynical aspect added. The proposer “humbly [offers]” the solution of cannibalism of the poor infants at a year old for the economic, political, and nationalistic issues of Ireland (2634). The proposer continues to discuss a...

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