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A Modest Proposal | An Analysis

Keywords: modest proposal critique, modest proposal allusions


One of the "Tory freelance writers, " "a gifted satirist" (Abjadian 87), Jonathan Swift was created on November 30, 1667, in Dublin, Ireland. His father-an Englishman who acquired shifted to Ireland-died earlier that year. Acquiring financial assistance from relatives, Swift attended a good university for his basic education and graduated from Trinity School in Dublin in 1686. He resided off and on in England, became an Anglican clergyman, and eventually was appointed dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, although he previously lobbied for a position in England. His writing-especially his satires-made him one of the very most prominent citizens in the uk, and he proved helpful for a time with respect to Tory causes. His most famous work is Gulliver's Journeys, a e book of satire on politics and world in general. "Despite health issues, Swift continued to create prolifically-especially on issues involving Anglo-Irish relationships and the church. He decried what he considered England's oppression of Ireland in 'A Modest Proposal'" (deGategno and Stubblefield 8) Swift died in Dublin on October 19, 1745.

"A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and to make Them Beneficial to the Publick, " commonly known as as "A Modest Proposal, " is a Juvenalian satirical essay written and shared anonymously by Jonathan Swift in 1729. The essay was originally printed out in the form of a pamphlet.

At the time of its publication, 1729, a pamphlet was a short work that required a stand on a political, spiritual, or interpersonal issue-or any issue of general public interest. A typical pamphlet got no binding, although it sometimes possessed a newspaper cover. Freelance writers of pamphlets, called pamphleteers, played a substantial role in inflaming or resolving lots of the great controversies in Europe in the 16th, 17th, and 18th decades, as well as in the politics debate before the American Trend. In addition to "A Modest Proposal, " Jonathan Swift composed many politics pamphlets supporting the sources of the Tory politics party after he renounced his allegiance to the Whig get together.


"A Modest Proposal" can be an article that uses satire to make its point. A satire is a literary work that disorders or pokes fun at vices, abuses, stupidity, and/or every other mistake or imperfection. In Abjadian's words, "satire is often regarded as a corrective method of human vice and folly" (11). Satire could make the reader giggle at, or feel disgust for, the person or thing satirized. Impishly or sardonically, it criticizes someone or something, using wit and clever wording-and sometimes makes outrageous assertions or says. The main reason for a satire is to spur visitors to remedy the challenge under discussion. The primary tool of the satirist is verbal irony, a shape of speech where words are used to ridicule a person or thing by conveying a meaning that is the contrary of what the words say.

Readers unacquainted with its reputation as a satirical work often do not immediately realize that Swift had not been really proposing cannibalism and infanticide, nor would readers not really acquainted with the satires of Horace and Juvenal-"the two distinguished Roman satirists" (Abjadian 13)-recognize that Swift's article follows the rules and framework of Latin satires.

"The fine satiric strategy inside a Modest Proposal" (Williams 26) is often only realized after the reader notes the allusions created by Swift to the behaviour of landlords, such as the following: "I give this food may be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for Landlords, who as they have devoured the majority of the Parents, appear to have the best Subject to the kids" (Swift 1080). Swift extends the metaphor to enter a few jibes at England's mistreatment of Ireland, noting that "For this kind of item will not bear exportation, and flesh being of too sensitive a consistence, to declare an extended continuance in salt, although perhaps I possibly could name a country, which would be delighted to consume up our complete nation without it" (1084).

Historical Background

Over the hundreds of years, England little by little gained a foothold in Ireland. In 1541, the parliament in Dublin regarded England's Henry VIII, a Protestant, as Ruler of Ireland. Regardless of repeated uprisings by Irish Catholics, British Protestants acquired more and more estates in Ireland. By 1703, they owned or operated all but ten percent of the land. On the other hand, legislation was enacted that severely limited the rights of the Irish to hold federal office, purchase real property, get an education, and move forward themselves in different ways. Because of this, many Irish fled to foreign lands, including America. The majority of those who continued to be in Ireland resided in poverty, facing disease, hunger, and prejudice. It was this Ireland-an Ireland of the tyrannized and the downtrodden-that Jonathan Swift attemptedto target attention on in "A Modest Proposal" in 1720.

Tertullian's Apology

Some scholars have argued that A Modest Proposal was generally influenced and encouraged by Tertullian's Apology. While Tertullian's Apology is a satirical harm against early Roman persecution of Christianity, Swift's A Modest Proposal addresses the Anglo-Irish situation in the 1720s. Wayne William Johnson feels that Swift found major similarities between the two situations (563). Johnson notes Swift's apparent affinity for Tertullian and the striking stylistic and structural similarities between the works A Modest Proposal and Apology (562).

In structure, Johnson points out the same central theme; that of cannibalism and the eating of newborns; and the same final debate; that "human depravity is such that men will try to justify their own cruelty by accusing their patients of being lower than individual" (563). Stylistically, Swift and Tertullian show the same command line of sarcasm and terminology. In contract with Johnson, Donald C. Baker points out the similarity between both authors' tones and use of irony. Baker notes the uncanny way that both writers imply an ironic "justification by ownership" over the main topic of reducing children-Tertullian while attacking pagan parents, and Swift while attacking the British mistreatment of the Irish poor (219).

Purpose of the Proposal

Swift seems to suggest in his article that the impoverished Irish might lessen their financial troubles by providing children as food for wealthy gentlemen and gals. By doing this he mocks the expert of the British isles officials. That is when Britain acquired taken over Ireland and put heavy limitations on their trade, stifling their overall economy. The essay has been observed by historians as being the first noted satirical article. A critic (qtd. in Williams) in Journal Anglais, in 1777 expresses,

To ridicule those strategies for reform with that your open public was inundated in those days, and which often insulted the misery to which they affected a want to bring consolation. It will be pointed out that Swift has imitated the common expressions and the insinuating firmness of the creators of these projects (199).

He published "A Modest Proposal" to call attention to abuses inflicted on Irish Catholics by well-to-do British Protestants. Swift himself was a Protestant, but he was also a indigenous of Ireland, having been created in Dublin of English parents. He presumed England was exploiting and oppressing Ireland. Many Irishmen worked well farms owned by Englishmen who billed high rents-so high that the Irish were frequently struggling to pay them. Subsequently, many Irish farming people continually resided on the border of hunger.

In "A Modest Proposal, " Swift satirizes the English landlords with outrageous laughter, proposing that Irish babies be sold as food at age one, when they are plump and healthy, to provide the Irish a new income source and the British a fresh food product to bolster their current economic climate and eliminate a sociable problem. He says his proposal, if implemented, would also cause a decrease in the amount of Catholics in Ireland, since most Irish infants-almost all of whom were baptized Catholic-would finish up in stews and other dishes instead of growing up to visit Catholic churches. Here, he's satirizing the prejudice of Protestants toward Catholics. Swift also satirizes the Irish themselves in his essay, for way too many of them got accepted abuse stoically somewhat than taking action independently behalf.


Regarding the style found in the essay, William Monck Mason expresses,

The chilly, phlegmatic style [in A Modest Proposal] of a political projector, who waves the concern of all finer emotions of humanity, or makes them subservient, as matters of slight moment in time, to the overall advantages suggested in his plan of financial improvement, is admirably well satirized. The cool, 'businesslike' manner, where the calculations are explained, is equally excellent (340).


. . . . . In "A Modest Proposal, " Swift uses a standard article format: an opening that presents this issue and thesis (the "modest proposal"), a body that grows the thesis with details, and a bottom line. In the starting, the author expresses the condition: the deplorable monetary and communal conditions that impoverish the Irish preventing them from providing adequate care for their children. Before delivering the thesis, he inserts the following transitional word: "I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, that i hope will not be liable to the least objection" (Swift 1080) He practices this phrase with the thesis, and then presents the details in the torso of the article.

In the final outcome, he states the benefits that could accrue from his proposal. He starts with the following two sentences: "I've too much time digressed, and for that reason shall go back to my subject. I think advantages by the proposal which I have made are obvious and many, as well by the best importance. " He next lists the advantages, using transitional words such as secondly and thirdly to move from one point to the next. " He ends the conclusion by describing why his proposal is superior to other remedies. Take into account that throughout the body and finish Swift makes his debate with irony, proclaiming the contrary of what he really means.


The dominant shape of speech in "A Modest Proposal" is verbal irony, in which a writer or loudspeaker says the opposite of what he means. Swift's masterly use of this device makes his main argument-that the Irish deserve better treatment from the English-powerful and dreadfully amusing. For instance, to point out that the Irish should not be treated like pets or animals, Swift compares them to animals, as with this example: "I somewhat recommend buying the children alive, and dressing them hot from the knife, even as we do roasting pigs. " Also, to point out that disease, famine, and substandard living conditions threaten to kill great numbers of Irish, Swift cheers their predicament as an optimistic development:

Some persons of any desponding nature are in great concern about that multitude of the indegent, who are aged, diseased, or maimed, and I have already been desired to employ my thoughts what course may be taken to ease the country of so grievous an encumbrance. But I am not whatsoever pain upon that matter, since it is perfectly known they are every day dying and rotting by wintry and famine, and filth and vermin, as fast as can be fairly expected. And as to the young laborers, they are now in as hopeful an ailment; they can not get work, and therefore pine away for want of nourishment, to a diploma that if anytime they are accidentally employed to common labor, they may have not strength to perform it; and so the united states and themselves are gladly delivered from the evils to come (1082).

In "Sarcasm and Irony in Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal, " a critic, about the irony in the essays, maintains,

One of the voices that exists throughout the storyplot is that of irony. The storyplot itself is ironic since no person may take Swifts proposal critically. This irony is plainly demonstrated at the end of the story; Swift makes it clear that this proposal wouldn't normally influence him since his children were cultivated and his better half struggling to have any more children. It might be somewhat absurd to think that a rational man would want to both propose this and partake in the eating of another human being. Therefore, before an analyzation can continue, one has to make the assumption that is strictly a fictional work and Swift possessed no intention of going after his proposal any further.


There are some allusions in the article including Barbadoes (Barbados): Easternmost Western Indies island, resolved by the English in 1627. When Swift posted "A Modest Proposal" in 1729, the island's plantation owners used slaves to create sugar for Western european ingestion; Dublin: The Irish city brought up in "A Modest Proposal. " It's the capital of Ireland; Formosa: Portuguese name for Taiwan, a Chinese-inhabited island off of the southeast shoreline of China; Mandarin: High-ranking Chinese language formal; Papist: Roman Catholic; Pretender: Adam Francis Edward Stuart (1688-1766), son of King James II, who ruled Britain, Ireland, and Scotland from 1685 to 1688. Wayne II was a Catholic, as was his better half, Mary of Modena. After his accession to ability, Protestant factions continuously maneuvered against him in the background. When Mary became pregnant, these factions worried that the labor and birth of her child would set up a line of Catholic kings. Therefore, they plotted to oust Adam II and replace him with Dutchman William of Orange, whose mother was the daughter of an English ruler, Charles I, and whose better half was one of James II's own daughters. When William marched against England, many Protestants in James II's army deserted to William, and Adam possessed no choice but to flee to France. After he perished in 1701, the French king then proclaimed James II's young child, Wayne Francis Edward Stuart, to be the rightful king of Great britain. The British Parliament then enacted regulations made to prevent seating another Catholic king. Nevertheless, in succeeding years, James Francis repeatedly attempted to restore the throne, and the Uk eventually nicknamed him the Old Pretender. Psalmanazar, George: French forger and impostor who traveled generally under different personas. In another of his most famous schemes, he pretended to be from Formosa (present-day Taiwan), of which little was known in the Europe of his time. In London, he publicized a booklet about Formosa in which he published that Formosan legislations permitted a partner to consume a wife if she determined adultery. Psalmanazar acquired never went to Formosa; the complete publication was made up. Nevertheless, many Englishmen presumed what he previously written.


There some designs explained and described in the article. The topics like the exploitation of the downtrodden. Beneath Swift's audacious satire is a significant theme; that English overlords are shamelessly exploiting and oppressing the impoverished folks of Ireland through unfair regulations, high rents charged by absentee landlords, and other injustices. Another theme is the prejudice: During the publication of "A Modest Proposal, " many United kingdom Protestants disdained Roman Catholics-especially Irish Catholics-and enacted regulations limiting their potential to flourish and prosper. One important theme of the work is the Irish Inaction; Swift's satirical vocabulary also chides the Irish themselves for not behaving with firm take care of to improve their lot. Another theme is, as Barnett refers to, "the theme of unwelcome duplication will be the wretchedly poor moms of Ireland within a Modest Proposal, whose children, as the subtitle informs us, are 'a Burden to their Parents or Country'" (121).


It has been argued that Swift's main concentrate on in a very Modest Proposal had not been the conditions in Ireland, but instead the can-do spirit of the days that led visitors to devise a number of illogical schemes that would purportedly solve interpersonal and economic ills. Swift was especially insulted by assignments that tried to repair inhabitants and labor problems with a straightforward cure-all solution. A memorable example of these kinds of schemes "involved the idea of running the indegent through a joint-stock company" (Wittkowsky 85). In response, Swift's Modest Proposal was "a burlesque of projects regarding the poor" (88) which were in vogue during the early 18th century.

A Modest Proposal also targets the calculating way people recognized the indegent in making their jobs. The pamphlet focuses on reformers who "regard people as goods" (Wittkowsky 101). Within the piece, Swift adopts the "technique of your political arithmetician" (95) to show the utter ridiculousness of seeking to demonstrate any proposal with dispassionate reports.

Critics change about Swift's intentions in using this faux-mathematical beliefs. Edmund Wilson argues that statistically "the reasoning of the 'Modest proposal' can be compared with defense of criminal offenses (arrogated to Marx) in which he argues that offense takes care of the superfluous inhabitants"(Wittkowsky 95). Wittkowsky counters that Swift's satiric use of statistical examination is an effort to enhance his satire that "springs from a soul of bitter mockery, not from the delight in calculations for their own sake" (98).


Robert Phiddian's article "Have you consumed yet? The Reader in the Modest Proposal" targets two aspects of A Modest Proposal: the speech of Swift and the tone of the Proposer. Phiddian stresses that a reader of the pamphlet must figure out how to distinguish between the satiric tone of voice of Jonathan Swift and the evident monetary projections of the Proposer. He reminds viewers that "there is a gap between your narrator's interpretation and the text's, and a moral-political argument has been carried out through parody" (Phiddians 6).

While Swift's proposal is obviously not really a serious monetary proposal, George Wittkowsky, writer of "Swift's Modest Proposal: The Biography of an early on Georgian Pamphlet", argues that this in order to fully understand the part, it is important to understand the economics of Swift's time. Wittowsky argues that insufficient critics took the time to directly focus on the mercantilism and theories of labor in 18th century England. "[I]f one regards the Modest Proposal simply as a criticism of condition, about all one can say is the fact that conditions were bad which Swift's irony brilliantly underscored this fact" (Phiddians 3). At the start of a new industrial get older in the 18th century, it was thought that "people are the riches of the country", and there is a general faith in an economy which paid its staff low pay because high salary would mean workers would work less (4). Furthermore, "in the mercantilist view no child was too young to go into industry". In those times, the "somewhat more humane attitudes of an earlier day had basically vanished and the laborer got come to be regarded as a product" (6).

"Folks are the riches of a nation"

Louis A. Landa reveals Swift's A Modest Proposal as a critique of the favorite and unjustified maxim of mercantilism in the eighteenth century that "people will be the riches of an land" (161). Swift reveals the dire express of Ireland and shows that mere human population itself, in Ireland's circumstance, didn't always mean higher wealth and market (165). The uncontrolled maxim does not take into account that a person that will not produce in an economic or politics way makes a country poorer, not richer (165). Swift also identifies the implications of such an undeniable fact to make mercantilist philosophy a paradox: the wealth of a country is based on the poverty of nearly all its citizens (165). Swift however, Landa argues, is not merely criticizing economical maxims but also dealing with the actual fact that Britain was denying Irish residents their natural rights and dehumanizing them by taking a look at them as a mere product (165).


Charles K. Smith argues that Swift's rhetorical style persuades the audience to detest the loudspeaker and pity the Irish. Swift's specific strategy is twofold, by using a "capture" to make sympathy for the Irish and a dislike of the narrator who, in the span of one phrase, "details vividly and with rhetorical emphasis the grinding poverty" but seems emotion only for associates of his own school. Swift's use of gripping information on poverty and his narrator's cool approach towards them creates "two opposing items of view" which "alienate the reader, perhaps unconsciously, from a narrator who is able to view with 'melancholy' detachment a topic that Swift has directed us, rhetorically, to see in a significantly less detached way" (Smith 136).


A Modest Proposal, A (1729), a pamphlet by Jonathan Swift on Ireland, written during the summertime of 1729. In form and build it resembles a typical philanthropic appeal to solve Ireland's economic crisis, but Swift's private speaker advises a barbarous plan, to cannibalize the country's children. It really is a masterpiece of rhetorical irony, a disturbing fiction which signifies the finish of Swift's pamphleteering role on nationwide affairs after ten years of passionate involvement.

The article depicts the horrific conditions of Ireland and the lives of the Irish people in 1729. The author portrays and disorders the cruel and unjust oppression of Ireland by its oppressor, the mighty English and ridicules the Irish people at the same time. However, Swift's opposition is indirectly offered. Jonathan Swift is able to do so utilizing the persona, irony, and wit in order to expose the remarkable corruption and degradation of the Irish people, and at the same time present them with practicable answers to their unscrupulous and pathetic lives. The author runs on the satire to accomplish his target not only because the guy can conceal his true personal information but also since it is the most effective way to awake the people of Ireland into seeing their own depravity.

Swift creates a imaginary persona because by concealing his true personality the guy can convince the readers of the significance of Ireland's problem and invite these to see real truth and truth. The persona is a concerned Irishman who's very intelligent, acoustics, and serious. He appears to be a brute and a monster for proposing something wicked and immoral very calmly as though it is normal to consume the flesh of another individual. What makes his proposal to be even more depraved is that he proposes to consume the infants. The persona declares, and at exactly at twelve months old i propose to provide for them, in a such a manner as, rather than being a fee upon their parents, or the parish, or desiring food and raiment for the rest of the lives, they shall, on the other hand, donate to the feeding and partly to the clothing of several hundreds. The persona justifies his proposal with numerous reasons.

Besides the prevention of voluntary abortions and infanticide, it will also prevent the loss of money for maintenance of children and the misuse of women and children. The number of Papists would be reduced and the kids will not become beggars, thieves, or prostitutes. The proposal will assist in the increase in the status of the peasantry, promote love, and treatment from the moms towards their children. Nevertheless the persona together is inadequate to make the narrator seem too plausible. The persona must utilize irony and wit for his article to be more efficacious. In fact, relating to deGategno and Stubblefield, it is "the type of callous indifference toward children that Swift parodied and criticized in "A Moderate Proposal" (69).

A Modest Proposal is so effective and interesting due to authors' copious uses of irony throughout his essay. The subject itself is definitely ironic. It provides the audience with false targets of decency and sensibility for the copy writer. The butchery of innocent newborns and the use of their pores and skin for clothing is way beyond being moderate. It really is brutal and insane. The proposal is intended to shock and toss the reader off balance. The narrator also ridicules the Irish. Swift impelled and influenced the Irish into rebelling by delivering them with possible solutions to cease the anguish of Ireland's people.

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