“Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift Proposal

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From my point of view, Swift presents his essay a “Modest Proposal” as way of showing and criticizing, in a satirical and ironical tone, what Ireland was going through during the 18th century which was under the control of Great Britain. If we consider that Ireland was suffering from a religious, political and social conflict as well as famine; the author might use the word “modest” in the title to express that his proposal which was eating children, was just a “humble idea”( ironical tone) to benefit Land –lords, England and help poor people survive. The narrator suggests “…I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts…”. “I grant this food will be somewhat dear and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.” Through the use of this metaphor, he specifically blames the wealthy landlords and the English for abusing the lower classes and creating the poverty that the Irish poor are suffering from.

I believe that the Proposer´s voice (the narrator) is not identical with Swift´s voice but we can distinguish the Author´s ideas by the way in which he contributes to the persona he uses. For example, “ having turn my thoughts for many years upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of the projectors” in this quote, the narrator expresses that is his responsibility to share his feelings and thoughts about when the essay was published . This is also what Swift demonstrates , in an ironic tone, through this essay. The following quote shows how Swift may also contribute to the proposer´s voice by presenting an idea to improve Ireland “ taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound, of using neither clothes nor household furniture, except what is our growth and manufacture,[…] of being a little cautions not to sell our country and conscience for nothing…”

The proposer begins the essay by presenting and describing the terrible conditions of the poor people in Ireland to generate sympathy or pity in the readers. However, this feeling disappears in the following paragraphs once the narrator´s proposal of commercializing and eating children is presented. Furthermore, his proposal illustrates a moral and religious issue in a Catholic country, the speaker claims “… it will prevent those voluntary abortions”[…] “it would greatly lessen the number of papist…” Apart from that, the narrator compares the poor people with animals, consequently devaluating their lives. He states “…I calculate there may be about two hundred thousand couple, whose wives are breeders […] that of the hundred and twenty thousand children, already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed, whereof only one fourth part to be males ; which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle, or swine …”

Regarding, the reason why young boys and girls of twelve years old suddenly become “valuable”; my point of view is that these children are old enough to work and the girls are closed in age to being breeders.

The Speaker suggests murdering and eating children (cannibalism), so claiming that it won´t be “liable to least objection” is very ironic because it is something that would obviously have many objections.


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“Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift Proposal. (2020, Sep 12). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/modest-proposal-by-jonathan-swift/

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