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Modest Analysis

840 words - 4 pages

Jonathon Swift, in his “Modest Proposal” brings to light the poor conditions of the Irish in the British Empire. He not only communicates the suffering and poverty they go through, but also the cold, almost inhuman view the British have of them. The British had taken away much of their land by force and left the many of the Irish poor and homeless. During this time when most people were apathetic to or simply didn’t know about the Irish’s misery, Swift sought to both educate and shock them, to make them face the true problem and question the morality of their views.

Swift paints a sobering picture of the life of the Irish beggars, but does this in a comical way. He first addresses the large ...view middle of the document...

The second part of Swift’s message is to call for more empathy for the Irish. He does this without explicitly attacking the British prejudice or pitying the Irish predicament. In fact, he does the opposite, having a tone that seems more and more indifferent to the Irish children as he explains his proposal. In his calculations, Swift doesn’t seem to care about the life or happiness of the Irish, taking into account their deaths as if they were merely numbers. His proposal makes it seem even more so, as the solution that he recommends is to lessen the amount of people in poverty is to eat their children. He says that because he has been assured that “a young healthy child well nursed… is a wholesome food,” Swift proposes that the babies be fed to the wealthy as it would be “somewhat dear,” an expensive delicacy, and so would give the mother “eight shillings neat profit.” Early in the passage, he lamented the common practice of women cruelly killing their children, “sacrificing the poor innocent babes… more to avoid the expense than shame,” but ironically, that’s what he’s proposing. Swift uses this irony to unnerve readers with his proposal, unnerve readers with the general view of the lower class Irish which he mirrored, and unnerve readers with the possibility that they themselves have the same view. This view is made clear in Swift’s...

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