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Literary Satire In “A Modest Proposal”

895 words - 4 pages

In the mid-18th century, Ireland was a country stricken by severe poverty. Governed largely by a few wealthy English landowners, the Irish masses faced high taxation, food shortage, and over population. In “A Modest Proposal,” Jonathan Swift suggests a radical solution to Ireland’s poverty problem by means of consuming Irish infants. By using heavy literary satire to demonstrate the economic and religious prejudice surrounding Ireland, Jonathan Swift pushes the passive upper class and discriminating politicians to take action and help Ireland.
The title of Swift’s work rings with verbal irony. The subject in “A Modest Proposal” is clearly not modest but disgusting, immoral, and ...view middle of the document...

Swift uses words like “savage,” “carcasses,” “barreled beef,” “flesh,” and “pigs” to relate eating children to eating other common animals like cows, sheep, and pigs (2634). To further engage the reader’s appetite, Swift writes that a healthy Irish baby would be “nourishing, and wholesome” and could be served as a “fricassee or a ragout” (2634). By using savage, in-humane imagery, Swift twists the knife further in the side of Ireland’s disinterested leaders. Swift’s intention is to show that by doing nothing for the poor Irish people, the policymakers and English landowners may as well be called cannibals because their inactions are descriptive of an uncivilized and repulsive people.
Jonathan Swift displays the economic prejudice of Ireland’s rulers by using carefully calculated statistics to support his arguments. He “humbly offer[s]” the readers to consider that there are a “hundred and twenty thousand children, already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed, whereof only one fourth part to be males” (2634). Swift’s use of numbers and calculations mock the statistical approach of propositions in politics. He treats the children like “cattle” or “swine” ready to be killed for the benefit of food and economic profit. Swift lists the benefits of eating Irish babies and discusses further that “the mother will have eight shillings net profit, and be fit for the work till she produces another child” (2635). With this approach, Swift labels the wealthy English as uncompassionate and exploiters of the Irish people, concerned only of increasing their profits. To further humiliate the exploitive nature of Ireland’s politicians, Swift suggests that for those who are more economical can use the...

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