In the late 1720’s, Ireland had suffered from several years of substandard harvests. Farmers were having trouble paying rent, feeding their families, and the little money that these farmers would earn would go directly to England, leaving the Irish people in shambles. And while many may think that there was little to no way to fix this, Jonathan Swift thought differently. Swift proposed that the poor mothers sold their babies to the market at a certain age, to be made into food to resolve the famine.
Of course, this caused a lot of uproar with the readers. Swift turned his ideas into a “proposal” for the Irish people and also satirized the Irish people’s extreme poverty to draw attention to the fact that they were poor. Part of the reason that swift was so effective in bringing awareness towards the Irish poverty was his use of literary devices and excellent writing style. Swift uses the three main types of appeals in his writing (Logical, Emotional, and Ethical) to either evoke feelings in the reader, to convince the reader and convey his point to the reader, and to show statistics and numbers to support his point. Some examples of these devices are when Swift states the following: “There is likewise another great advantage in my scheme, that it will prevent [women from] sacrificing the poor innocent babies.” (Lines 37-40).
This is an example of emotional appeal and is used to evoke feelings in the reader with the use of the words “Poor” and “Innocent”. The author also uses emotional appeal when he states “the streets, the roads and cabbin-doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags,” and leaves the reader feeling pitiful and with sorrow for the living conditions of the Irish.
At first glance, the article written by Swift may seem like a joke rather than an elaborate piece of literature, but after recognizing and understanding all the satire and literary devices used in the creation of this proposal, the true purpose of the proposal becomes clear as day. Swift says that the solution to the Irish problems is to resort to cannibalism to clown the oppressive rule that the English have over the Irish.