John Swift's A Modest Proposal Essay

1374 words - 5 pages

In Jonathan Swift’s satirical work, A Modest Proposal, the reader is presented with a horrible concept using extremely effective language and logos; Swift uses strong speech, rational tone, and complex grammar to convince readers that eating children will solve all the problems in 19th century Ireland. Swift’s overall goals in his pamphlet, however, is not to actually encourage eating babies, which is why it is of satire, but is instead to raise awareness of Ireland’s conditions for living, failing political figures, and the tyranny brought by England.
Swift states in his sub-title, "For Preventing the Children of poor People in Ireland, from being a Burden to their Parents or Country; and for making them beneficial to the Public" (Swift Sub-Title). This quote is about fixing the problems in Ireland. Swift attacks where it hurts the most, which would be the youth. He is hoping by putting the spotlight on the financially unstable youth of Ireland that the country as a whole would be emotionally affected. He wants everyone to understand that Ireland is in a poor state of condition and that a change needs to be made. He opens with this as his sub-title because it immediately grabs the reader’s attention and, further more, it brings awareness that there is a problem. Swift then continues on by saying, "I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child, well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food..." (Swift par. 3). This is arguably the most famous line in the essay. It is in this sentence that Swift justifies the food side of his satirical “modest proposal” that the people of Ireland should eat their young. Swift introduces this idea in the most outrageous way possible with his statement that one-year-old babies are “delicious” whether they are “stewed, roasted, baked or boiled.” The image of a baby in a stew or a meatball is equally horrifying and absurd. The idea is so intense that it demonstrates the overall irony of the piece. It is also worth pointing out that this line comes late in the essay. Swift lulls the reader into a false sense of trust by beginning with descriptions of the position of the poor in Ireland. The reader may think at first that this is a serious essay, making the point all the more loud when it eventually appears. The idea itself comes from "a very knowing American," which is a small attack on the Americas and American colonies. Rhetorically, the first couple of quotes stated are the strongest in bringing attention to Ireland’s issues. It’s comical in the fact that he uses such a horrible idea to raise the red flags in the minds of the Irish people.
In an earlier paragraph Swift writes, "It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads, and cabin-doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags,...

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