Swift, Jonathan. “A Modest Proposal. ” 100 Great Essays. New York penguin Academics: New York. 2008. Pages 669-677 Print. [Summary] A Modest Proposal is mainly about Jonathan Swift’s sarcastic idea of keeping the children of poor people from being a burthen to their parents, or the country, and for making them beneficial to the public: which is what the rest of the pamphlet is named.
The point is to ironically attempt to “find out a fair, cheap, and easy Method” for converting the starving children of Ireland into “sound and useful members of the Commonwealth. ” All across the country poor children, mostly Catholics are living in poverty because their families are too poor to keep them fed and clothed. The author argues, by hard-edged economic reasons as well as from a “self-righteous moral stance”, for a way to turn this problem into its own solution.
The proposal was to fatten up these undernourished children and feed them to Ireland’s rich land-owners. Children of the poor could be sold into a meat market at the age of one, he thinks, that even though he is up against overpopulation and unemployment, sparing families the expense of child-bearing while providing them with a little extra income, improving the culinary experience of the wealthy, and giving a little back to the overall economic wellness of the nation.
He offers statistical support for his assertions and gives specific data about the number of children to sell, their weight and price, and the projected consumption patterns. He suggests some “recipes for preparing this delicious new meat”, and he feels sure that “innovative cooks” will be quicker to make more. He also hopes that the practice of selling and eating children will have positive effects on family morality: “husbands will treat their wives with more respect”, and “parents will value their children in many ways unknown”.
The main point is that the impact of this project will do more to solve Ireland’s complex social, political, and economic problems than any other measure that has been proposed. [Style Analysis] Through the effective use of sarcastic comparisons and ironic exaggerations, Swift manages to show his cutting wit in a manner and to an extent that was virtually never before known or experienced in literature. Although the subjects, or targets, of his sarcasm are different, the genius in his method of employing it is sort of similar.
The irony and sarcasm obviously in the title alone is a perfect example of the power of wonderful satire but another strong example is where Swift speaks of the selling of babies as food, saying, “I grant this food [children] 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. ” This is a powerful statement disguised as a blind following of the speaker’s philosophy when really, it addresses the fact of the awful matter of England.
This ironic narrator can tell the reader with coldness about how the skin of children can be used like leather to make… “admirable gloves for ladies and summer boots for fine gentlemen,” Swift gives such subtle and witty language that the reader is almost inclined to not notice the obvious deplorable aspects and to agree with his arguments. The skillful irony that Swift gives throughout the proposal is mostly clear in the reasoning of his arguments.
Also Near the beginning , Swift explains that “it is agreed by all parties” that the overpopulation of children is a problem that is “a very great additional grievance” to the current “deplorable state” of Ireland. He further states:”. . . and therefore whoever could find out a fair, cheap, and easy method of making these children sound, useful members of the commonwealth would deserve so well of the public as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation. This is a positive and potentially beneficial suggestion.
It is just not until further along in the text, that Swift’s true proposal becomes clear. However, the language that he gives again masks the ugly of its reality. Swift casually says that an “acquaintance” of his has promised him that “a young, healthy, and child well nursed, is at a year old a most delicate, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled”. He then quickly adds, “and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout. Although the language is clear, it is at odds with its tone.
Before ending the proposal, Swift states an “unsarcastic” statement. It reads:”Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like expedients, till he hath at least some glimpse of hope that there will ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice. ” [Personal Response] I more than enjoyed myself reading Jonathan Swift’s pamphlet “A Modest Proposal. ” It just blew me away the way he used such whit to create such a wonderful satirical piece such as itself.
At first he seems to be totally objective to the original severe economical problem set in front of us all. Yet he shows no mercy towards the subject. Swift uses such a serious tone; if one didn’t know what type of writing was being read, one could be easily fooled to think Swift’s proposal was indeed for real. The statement the interested me the most was, “After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion as to reject any offer proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap, easy, and effectual.
But before something of that kind shall be advanced in contradiction to my scheme…” I enjoyed reading this part because, although here Swift gives leigh weigh to others who wish to comment on the matter he says something different this time, he refers to his, once, proposal as now a “scheme”, very thought provoking for me. As I said, I enjoyed it and I look forward to reading more of Swifts works.
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