A Modest Proposal and Other Satires
A Not So Modest Proposal
Jonathan Swift, author of “A Modest Proposal”, utilizes his mastery of satire, outrageous claims, and rhetorical devices; Satire is the use of irony and exaggeration to expose or criticize people’s stupidity, vices, and faults. Swift succeeds in discretely criticizing the contemporary politics and policies of England; policies that potentially, and were mainly blamed on, driving Irelands economy into a depression. Swift adopts the persona of a well-intentioned economist, suggesting that the poverty and famine in Ireland can be dealt with by selling children for food and clothing; As a result, Swift argues that not only will the income of the poor increase significantly, but as well the population will decrease proportionally. Swift provides much detail regarding the number of servings a child might provide, projecting the costs of each child sold and their profit, and he estimates the amount of population affected. Swift even suggests that the meat of children would be a delicacy to the English and wealthy Irish land owners.
Although, in reality, Swift denounces England with clever use of irony and metaphors; describing how the Irish can be rid of their useless, needy children by selling them at the “delicious” age of one year for food and their skin for clothing. Therefore, each child sold would be contributing back to Irelands depreciated economy. Swift purposely uses logical fallacies and a very “knowledgeable” tone to satirize England. Swifts persona, a well-meaning economist whose sympathy for the poor of Ireland leads him to suggest cruel and murderous solutions, completely undermining any thoughtful intent. With such outrageous thoughts as “a young healthy child well nursed is a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food.” Claims such as these catch the attention of the reader and shock them, but this is exactly what Swift wanted. By grossing out the “public” with shock factors, he had hoped they would take a second glance at the corrupt policies in place and hopefully reform it. Throughout “A Modest Proposal”, Swift discreetly uses this shocking rhetoric as political attacks against England, suggesting that England is the core of the poverty and saddened population. At one point in the essay, Swift describes how the meat of children could not withstand long voyages without spoiling, though he “could name a country which would be glad to eat up our whole nation without it.” Alluding to England and the “devouring” of Irelands resources.
Swifts use of a “knowledgeable” tone humorizes a very dark subject. Swift, with his economist persona, utilizes logos, presenting made up statistics to sound much more professional and credible. Giving such statistics as the number of children in Ireland, the number of children born per year, and the amount of money that could possibly be made from selling Irish children. Throughout the entire essay, Swift uses metaphors such as the comparing of physically eating a child, to financially
destroying Ireland. When Swift suggests that “20,000” children should be kept for “breeding” he is comparing them to animals. Overall, comparing how English authorities treat the Irish like animals. Although, Swift slowly shifts his tone from knowledgeable to serious throughout the essay, almost unnoticeably becoming a satire essay to a very serious politically driven one. Very clearly satirizing those who have proposed solutions that are solutions to economic issues, without fully considering the human cost involved. Swift shows the inhumanity of schemes that are based only on greedy principles. Although Swifts use of irony is very shocking at first sight, another glance over and understating the greater historical context, reveals Swifts great genius and subtlety; I strongly agree with Swift as, he shows a complete mastery over irony and sarcasm, shocking readers with the solution of infant cannibalism. While in doing so, Swift shows the hypocrisy of politics, and politicians that caused the depression of Ireland. Swift recognized a problem, and proposed an unorthodox solution using only his pen, paper, and sarcasm.
About How Far Pessimism Can Go -Study The Issue
Politicians, religious leaders, and group leaders alike have preyed on the weaknesses of their constituents and taken advantage of their disposition to be persuaded easily into circumstances with the lack of rational thinking and reasoning. In his controversial essay “A Modest Proposal”, Jonathan Swift, through his use of satire and logos, expresses the dangers of relying on speculative reason to solve problems which may lead to thinking the unthinkable rather than following what should be more natural and humane.
Despite the dire and vulnerable state of Ireland, Swift introduces his audience to his unrealistic solution to poverty and famine which he uses satirically to exemplify the dangers of allowing desperation and speculative reason to solve their problems. While the reader is hooked and begins to formulate a stance on the issue, Swift intelligently gets the reader to accept and reject the proposal when he states “I am assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London; that a young healthy child, well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food; whether stewed, roasted, baked or boiled, and I make no doubt, that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or ragout’. This is by far the most famous line of the whole text because it grounds his satirical tone by proposing that they shall consume their babies. This is intended to shock the audience, create outrage and utter rejection of Swift’s previously established credibility. This use of satire mocked the haughty and desperate attitude of the Protestant Aristocracy as well as the apathy of the impoverished Irish. It is meant to emphasize the debilitated and desperate condition Ireland was in and encouraged the reader to block out Swift yet remain immersed because of their curiosity. Because of their weakened state, Swift takes advantage of their desperate nature to convey the problems that can arise when society allows itself to be polarized. This polarization is easily created when society as a whole permits its desperation to take over morality and rational thought. He wants to make sure his audience learns to think for themselves and not be misguided through irrational persuasion and processes, as seen by other countries in similar situations at the time.
In order for any speaker to be listened to and to have his words have any effect whatsoever, credibility and trust must be established between the audience and speaker first. Swift acknowledges this and acts upon it effectively through his use of logos throughout his essay. The essay begins innocently by establishing Swift as another citizen concerned with the wellbeing of his peers who is genuinely sympathetic to the Irish poor, whose suffering he describes with melancholy. Sensitive, knowledgeable, and confident- all are characteristics which Swift utilized to present himself in his ability to resolve through rational, logical analysis. Once he established a basic sense of trust between him and the audience, he continues to build on it through logical reasoning when he states “I subtract thirty thousand couples…there will remain an hundred and seventy thousand breeders subtract fifty thousand only remains one hundred and twenty thousand children.”This is an example of logos because it uses statistics and numerical reasoning to apply Swift’s theme of how one may go to extremes to draw attention to the issues in society. Swift uses these statistics to show the audience the amount of families that could be saved from the burden of their children as well as be rescued from their impoverished conditions. His strategic use of logos and logical analysis allows him to lure his audience in and to make unrealistic, hyperbolic claims sound like legitimate reasoning. However, while on the surface the speaker argues for the reader to agree with his proposition, the reader is supposed to be in outrage by his proposal and reject it. Swift, is essentially attempting to teach the vulnerable, poverty-stricken people of Ireland a lesson about the hazards their gullibility and fascination with numerical reasoning can pose to their decision making. His use of logic essentially bypasses the questioning of the morality of the proposal by discussing the benefits to the economy and society through statistics and sheer, emotionless numbers. The power of this logical appeal warns Swift’s hopeless audience to not allow themselves to be persuaded into a state of polarization where there is a lack of rationale and moral thought behind every action.
The exploitation of human flaws for power and personal gain has been exercised ever since the first social and socio economic classes were created. Jonathan Swift, in his essay “A Modest Proposal”, addresses the widespread poverty and famine in Ireland and proposes a satirical and unrealistic solution which involves using and consuming babies in order to create balance and order. Swift adopts the position of a politician and demonstrates the dangers of speculative reasoning to solve issues which can lead to the neglection of moral and natural values through his use of satire and logos. When, as a group, one is faced with adversity and debilitating circumstances, it is essential that one maintains morality and rational reasoning to reach decisions as often others take advantage of one’s desperate condition to set themselves into positions of power. This can be seen all around the world through cults, some religions, and a handful of countries which have created polarized groups through exploiting the desperate who have lost their individual and rational thinking amongst a fleet of unanimous followers.
The Exaggeration in the World Illustrated in a Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
Exaggeration, of appearance, money, and ability. Many things are exaggerated in a world clouded by the importance of vain amenities. In “A Modest Proposal”, Jonathan Swift uses style elements diction, and hyperbole, to characterize the narrator who is a member of Irish decent as a self-absorbed, ignorant member of rich and powerful society, whom are revealed to have a complete lack of humility through their barbaric solution of eating children to solve overpopulation to “take care of” the poverty-stricken members of their society.
Through Swifts’ use of diction in “A Modest Proposal”, he sheds light on the ignorance and self-absorption of rich members of society, through their harsh characterizations of those in poverty. This characterization showcased through the word choice he chooses to use when describing these “professed beggars”, including references to the wives as “breeders” and murdered children as “carcasses of barreled beef”, and “fat yearling” children, asking to be “roasted whole”, calling them “creatures in human figure”, by comparing those in his society who are economically challenged to livestock of sorts such as cows, pigs, and goats, animals whom are regarded as simple substance and nothing more, lacking in intelligence and individual thought, being one of complete submission to the mighty human who “must” kill to stay alive is a prominent example of the narrators ignorance(1115 Swift). By these strongly worded descriptions of humans that he walks past every day, he has zero regard for their personal thoughts and opinions believing them to be incompetent and of less worth than him or the rest of rich society due to their lack of money or resources. Some of the words that he uses to describe his “modest proposal” are also huge indicators of the narrators self-absorbed and ignorant nature. He refers to his “solution” as “cheap, easy, and effectual,”, by his careful “calculation” of his “remedy”, he has concluded that his solution is the only plausible one to improve the current state of his country(1117). By characterizing his plan as being cheap and easy, with proven calculations of the benefits of monetizing human life, he is completely ignorant to the opinions of those who would be affected by his plan, which are the same people that his self-absorbed nature has convinced him that he is helping. His use of diction, help to highlight his complete lack of regard for the percentage of the population he claims that he is helping, which is most likely present in the rest of rich, ignorant, self-absorbed society.
In “A Modest Proposal”, Swifts use of hyperbole is a powerful tool when showcasing the gloating self-absorbed nature of the narrator, and complete ignorance toward his lack of humility, representing the opinions of the rest of rich and powerful society. He believes his plan to consist of “visionary thoughts”, “of no expense and little trouble” to anyone effected. Thinking “of no objection that will possibly be raised against this proposal”, displaying it to be the only plausible solution to the spread of beggars and poverty in Ireland (1119). By his large exaggeration of the quality of his plan and its effective nature he is in turn showing his ignorance toward those who the plan would affect, and his complete lack of humility, wishing to be the god sent that he believes his society needs. His self-absorbed nature is displayed through the countless benefits he believes his plan will have. He predicts “one thousand families” to “be constant customers”, of the murdered baby stewed meat, referring to abortions as the “horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children”, from those who are “horrid and inhuman breast”, the concept of his plan is to kill babies of beggars, yet he refers to abortions as a horrid and demonic act when he is proposing a mass murdering of innocent children that have already been born (1114). He believes that other members of rich society will have no problem knowingly purchasing human meat and consuming it without a feeling of guilt or disgust highlighting his ignorant nature toward the parents of the babies that would be consumed as well as the complete lack of remorse that he believes the rich and powerful members of society such as himself will have toward consuming human flesh. Through Swifts use of hyperbole through the narrator’s description of his visionary plan, his ignorant and self-absorbed nature is once again displayed.
In “A Modest Proposal”, Swifts use of hyperbole and diction characterize the narrator as a self- absorbed and ignorant member of rich and powerful society, modeling all privileged society to have the same belief system as the narrator. His complete disregard of poor society, whom he compares to livestock and sustenance and faces with cold calculations when justifying the murdering of their children, as well as extreme exaggerations of the quality and effectiveness of his plan are essential in the characterization of the rich and powerful narrator.
A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift and the Proposed Solution Poverty in Ireland
A Modest Proposal Essay
Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” begins with Swift’s ironic persona preparing the reader for his outrageous solution to the problem of poverty in Ireland. Swift’s dark satirical solution is to eat the Irish babies, which would bring in profit and decrease the surplus population of Ireland. Swift’s ironic persona uses appeals to ethos, logos, and pathos to prepare the reader for his ridiculous proposal.
In the opening paragraph of his proposal, Swift begins by referring to the children as burdens to their mothers who “instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance.” Swift’s satiric voice uses the word “strolling” as if begging was a nice and enjoyable task. The children then grow up to be burdens to their country by becoming “thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbados.” Swift describes the repeating cycle of poverty in Ireland; the parents are burdens to the country and their children will grow up with no other choice but to also become burdens to the country. The opening paragraph’s description of the poor in Ireland is an appeal to pathos. It gives a sympathetic approach to the poor and it makes the reader feel sympathy for the parents and the children of the poor.
Another appeal to pathos is made in paragraph five when Swift’s ironic persona brings up the voluntary abortions performed to avoid the expenses of supporting a child. The speaker says that preventing the “horrid practice of women murdering” their “poor innocent babes” is another great advantage to his scheme. This satirizes the fact that the babies are dying for nothing. It prepares the reader for his proposal because with the proposal of selling the babies to be eaten, the death of the babies will be useful and profitable. But without knowing the actual proposal, it is an appeal to pathos because Swift is saying that his proposal will prevent abortions.
In the second and third paragraph, Swift’s ironic persona gives the intentions of his proposal. He satirically understates the atrocious situation of poverty and says it is just a “grievance” and that whoever could come up with a simple solution to the problem would deserve “his statue set up for a preserver of a nation” as if they would care about a statue. He gives his intentions saying that his proposal will “provide for the children of professed beggars” and the children “who are born of parents in effect as little able to support them.” Swift makes an appeal to ethos and gives credibility to his proposal by saying that with his proposal, he is able to provide for all the children whose parents are not able to support them,
In paragraphs four and six, Swift’s ironic persona unsympathetically dehumanizes women and children by comparing them to livestock. Similar to how animals are priced, he calculates the cost of raising a child to a year of age and says that they must not be worth “above the value of two shilling.” He refers to women as “breeders” as if their only purpose in life is to produce children to be turned into food. Swift also assesses the population of the “breeders” and children born in Ireland as if the people were livestock. By dehumanizing humans and referring to them as animals, Swift makes an appeal to logos and is able to make a logical calculation on the worth and population of the Irish without regards to morality.
Jonathan Swift’s ironic persona in “A Modest Proposal” uses appeals to ethos, logos, and pathos to prepare the reader for his ridiculous proposal of eating babies as a solution to the poverty in Ireland. He makes appeals to pathos when he gives the description of the poverty in Ireland and when he brings up voluntary abortions. He makes an appeal to ethos when he gives the intentions of his proposal, and an appeal to logos is made when he makes calculations on the worth and population of the Irish.
The Success of a Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift and What it Meant
The Effectiveness Of “A Modest Proposal”
Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” was designed to horrify the Irish by suggesting the act of selling their children for slaughter and serving them as a delicacy on the tables of wealthy Englishmen in hopes of recognizing the depths of their penury. Swift was frustrated by the nonchalance of the Irish in the face of their treatment from the English; in such great poverty, the Irish sent their children into the streets to beg for coins (Swift). During the early eighteenth century, a religious struggle occurred between the English Protestants and the Irish Catholics. Protestant immigrants living amongst the Irish worked with other Protestants in England to create and pass laws banning Irish Catholics from serving in Parliament. Due to this ban, the Irish had no governmental representation and were at the mercy of the English, who were planning to crush Catholicism (Baker).
Jonathan Swift, an Irish clergyman, satirist, and author, lived from 1667 to 1745. Swift moved back and forth between England and Ireland several times in his life before finally settling down in 1713 as the Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin (“Jonathan Swift”). Swift wrote “A Modest Proposal” in 1729 out of frustration with the political and religious turmoil in Ireland. As the English took over the country, the Irish began to embrace their poverty and resign themselves to being slaves to the English (Lindquist).
Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” suggested Irish parents should sell their children as meat in an attempt to shock them into the realization of how detrimental their situation had become. After losing control of their country, the Irish became accustomed to living in poverty and being subservient to the English. Jonathan Swift looked down on the Irish because of how they allowed themselves to be dominated by England (Cummings). Prior to the English Protestants taking over the Irish Parliament, England and Ireland had been “set up as sister kingdoms by King John”(Baker).
In “A Modest Proposal,” Swift suggests that the English should be the ones to consume the Irish children because they had already taken advantage of the Irish and run their country into the ground to the extent that the English had little left to take from Ireland other than the meat from their youth. England essentially made Ireland their slave nation and had little reason left to not treat Irish citizens any better than livestock. Their rights had been taken away and given to English Protestants, and Ireland began to morph into a poverty stricken and compliant nation with no intention or means of changing their situation (Baker).
Swift’s satirical call to action failed in gaining meaningful success because of the state of the situation. The essay could not inspire rage because the Irish were already too broken. Irish Parliament had been taken over by English sympathizers who desired to strip the Irish of their rights. Without any hope for political reform or the return of their rights, many Irish families began to feel like they were trapped in a hopeless situation without the possibility of escape. After being repeatedly crushed and demoralized by England, most of the nation’s pride was erased and replaced by a despair that not even Jonathan Swift’s anger stricken essay could rouse them from (Baker).
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins Vs. a Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
Contemplating A Modest Proposal
Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games and Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal both tell the story of a suffering land, and what characters do or could do to try and survive in the world the they are born into. Katniss and Peeta fight for their lives in the Hunger Games, while Swift solves Ireland’s internal problems by proposing that we use one-year-old babies as a food source. Both provide compelling arguments and plots, but what makes their argument so strong is that they bring their arguments into the real world through satire. They both highlight differences between different groups in their personalities and situations, and use parallels to the real world as a support. Collins and Swift approach the argument in different ways, but their impact is similar.
Jonathan Swift describes the plight of the Irish people in a way that makes the reader feel sympathy for them. However, Swifts solution to their problems is to sell babies, which has moral repercussions. Swift almost completely ignores any form of moral argument against his idea of selling babies as food. However, he does acknowledge one argument he has, which is that Britain might have an objection. He does not even consider the potential problem that Ireland’s population might decrease, and does not consider it a point of the argument.
We can incur no danger in disobliging England. For this kind of commodity will not bear exportation, and flesh being of too tender a consistence, to admit a long continuance in salt, although perhaps I could name a country, which would be glad to eat up our whole nation without it. (Swift)
Swift maneuvers the argument so that the only person who matters is England, but his use of satire in this matter highlight the Ireland’s plight in the face of England. The only problem England would consider relevant is whether the children from England would be sold too. Almost scornfully, Swift assures the country that the science of food preservation keeps their children safe, so they are allowed to partake in this idea without feeling guilty, portraying England as selfish and unscrupulous, despite their appearances.
Collins also introduces some form of misguided interests in the Hunger Games, especially amongst the people that populate the Capitol. Although the Hunger Games was meant as a tool to squash rebellion in the remaining 12 out of 13 Districts, it also served as a form of entertainment for the citizens of the Capitol, like Venia, Octavia, and Flavius.
…even though they’re rattling on about the Games, it’s all about where they were or what they were doing or how they felt when a specific event occurred. “I was still in bed!” “I had just had my eyebrows dyed!” “I swear I nearly fainted!” Everything is about them, not the dying boys and girls in the arena. We don’t wallow around in the Games this way in District 12. We grit our teeth and watch because we must and try to get back to business as soon as possible when they’re over. (Collins)
The people of the districts are forced to watch the spectacle, and must go back to work immediately so that they don’t starve, while Katniss’s stylists watch it for excitement. While their names beings reminiscent of the Romans, we get the first image of them watching gladiator fights and deriving pleasure from the suffering the contestants felt. However, their dialogue of the Games is similar to how we react to variety shows and reality television in real life. Collins implicates us as Swift implicates England as beings that are so removed from the suffering of less fortunate people, we can watch as atrocious actions are carried out with no moral scruples, as we are separated from the victims by a body of water or land or a television screen.
Besides the moral implications from both works, the authors also use their plots and language to target the disparity between the rich and the poor. Swift targets the prejudices against the poorer fraction of the Irish population that are forced by circumstance to work for the richer part of the population. He speaks of the carcasses of babies as being useful only to those in the society that can afford the luxury of having mostly useless things. The richer women can use the children’s baby soft skin for gloves, and the richer family would enjoy the delicacy of baby meat.
I have reckoned upon a medium that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds, and in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, increaseth to 28 pounds. 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.
Swift talks of the babies’ weights as a convenient way of judging their value to the society as food, as we often talk of fish. A fish of 15 pounds catches a higher price than a fish of 10 pounds. He then furthers the idea of the rich dehumanizing the poor by emphasizing how the parents have already been devoured, in terms of resources, opportunities to create a better life for themselves, and their current states of being. As baby meat may become a delicacy, it makes sense that the landlords would be the main consumer.
The blame that Swift tacks on to the landlords of Ireland are paralleled with the blame that Collins pins on the citizens of the Capitol for how they live as opposed to the squalor of the Districts. When Katniss dines with Cinna during their first meeting, she highlights every aspect of the meal that she is eating, and sees if she can make that same meal for her mother and sister.
I try to imagine assembling this meal myself back home… I can’t even guess what’s in it. Days of hunting and gathering for this one meal … would be a poor substitution for the Capitol version. What must it be like, I wonder, to live in a world where food appears at the press of a button? How would I spend the hours I commit… to sustenance if it were so easy to come by? What do they do all day, these people in the Capitol, besides decorating their bodies and waiting around for a new shipment of tributes to roll in and die for their entertainment? (Collins)
While the Districts can barely scrape up edible food for themselves, the Capitol never hungers, and never has to work to maintain their standard of living, at least not to the point that the District people have to. The food the Capitol consumes is processed and packaged to a farther extent that you can press a button to get rid of your hunger. In our case, we can go to a McDonalds or a Restaurant and choose what we want from a menu to have it delivered to our table steaming hot. On the other hand, people in developing countries can barely scrape together resources to make a meal, let alone one that is cooked to perfection and made savory by oils and spices we import from the developing countries. The United State’s wasteful living is almost a replica of the Capital siphoning resources from the rest of Panem for their own entertainment.
Both Swift and Collins place blame on us, the readers, as well as real life groups in better positions then others in general for passively watching the problems of others, and proposing solutions that may seem to help even if they are morally reprehensible in some way, as long as we ourselves are not affected. Swift uses numerous references to figures and statistics to show the effectiveness of a solution and to mask the moral reprehensibility of his suggestions. His suggestions are outrageous, but he ruthlessly points out that if we were to walk away from this solution, we would get morals mixed up in the matter, and eventually come up with no solution at all, and the problem would continue, and therefore, as the harbinger of this cure-all solution, he should receive a medal for his efforts. Collins doesn’t use facts and numbers, but she develops her characters throughout the story, and uses the interactions to show how different people in the Capitol and people in the Districts are, and why they act the way they do. The people of the Capitol don’t know any better as they were bred into this life of luxury, to the point where if you were to put them in the Districts, they would die. The rest of Panem lives in fear of dying from starvation, so they’re mindset is much more practical, and many would never be able to imagine living a wasteful life.
From the two authors, we can piece together social problems that plague the real world both today and centuries ago, as we take advantage of other groups and societies for their resources, and even though we are sympathetic to their suffering, we would never once consider giving our own comforts away so that they may have a chance at what we had. We just resign ourselves to watch their fate passively, and continue on with our own lives. Their works bring to light the fact that we push away the true major problems of the world out of selfishness and fear, and offer a chance for self-reflection and possible reformation.
Review of a Modest Proposal and Usage in Society
The poor has always been on the bitter end of society. They always needed someone to stand up for them and be able to empower them. Jonathan Swift’s purpose in his essay “A Modest Proposal” was to draw attention to the impoverished population of Ireland and find social change. However, Swift made it in a creative way by using sarcasm and satire with his approach. Through this unique style, readers will be intrigued and attracted to ponder about the written literature.
Although this was intentionally written for the Irish population in the 1700s, this could also apply to the present, as the population rises, inflation happens, and resources become scarce. As the rich get richer, they blame all the problems in their society towards the poor. They abuse them through harder labor, taking their land, and making their lives miserable. The poor becomes even more powerless than before. The rich become even more greedy and neglect the ones who are inferior to them.
Jonathan Swift employs pathos to appeal to the readers’ emotions to hook them to listen to his strange proposal. He uses plenty of rhetorical irony, sarcasm, metaphor, and satire to persuade the abusive upper echelon to think about what they are doing and find a solution to put an end to their tyranny.
Swift starts with rhetorical irony by proposing to eat all the children of Ireland to “save Ireland.” He wants to kill the children so that others will have better lives. He uses metaphor by personifying them and describing them like food such as “delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked or broiled” (Swift 410). Simile was also used by Swift as he tries to compare the children to sheep, black cattle, swine and other farm animals (411). The impression leaves the readers with shock because of the morbid words that Swift uses. Swift does not mean the words literally but he is trying to draw attention to the problem. The rich have been taking advantage of the poor by hoarding all the food, land, and money. Social welfare was disregarded and the lives of the poor did not matter to them.
Swift uses another simile by comparing the description and the characteristics of a pig to a fat child. He says that it is “No way comparable in taste or magnificence to a well-grown, fat, yearling child, which roasted whole will make a considerable figure at a lord mayor’s feast or any other public entertainment” (414). He describes how delightful it is to eat a child and one can even eat it in feasts; thereby, enjoying its scrumptious taste with company. He illustrates it as something that is perfectly acceptable socially and will soon become a norm in their culture.
Eventually, Swift ends with powerful pathos:
“I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal interest in endeavoring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the public good of my country, by advancing our trade, providing for infants, relieving the poor, and giving some pleasure to the rich” (416).
He was trying to construct a dramatic ending by playing around with emotions. He says that he has no personal interest in this and simply wants everybody to succeed and have a better life which in reality, if taken literally, it will make things even worse. If they follow Swift’s proposal by disregarding the poor, Ireland will be paralyzed economically because there will be no one to do the important jobs that the poor people do.
Swift sarcastically illustrates how the less fortunate are thrown around and are at the disposal of the rich just like food or commodity. He even said that they can be sold and fortune can be made out of them:
“Thirdly, Whereas the maintenance of 100,000 children from two years old and upward, cannot be computed at less than 10s. a-piece per annum, beside the profit of a new dish introduced to the tables of all gentlemen of fortune in the kingdom who have any refinement in taste. And the money will circulate among ourselves, the goods being entirely of our own growth and manufacture” (413).
The poor are imperative to society. They do all the hard and important jobs such as farming, gathering food, fishing, construction, and all the other laborious activities and yet, they get treated harshly. Ireland will be in trouble all the more without them because no one will do their crucial tasks.
Swift’s words were very enjoyable but at the same time full of meaning. It serves as a wake-up call on how to treat those who are less fortunate. The rhetorical devices used were clever and wise that one’s eyes will be opened throughout the essay. At the end of the day, Swift highlights how selfish mankind can be. People tend to discriminate those below them and take advantage of them knowing that they cannot fight back. Swift took the helm and stood up for those being maltreated by proposing a message to the upper class through the use of rhetorical devices.
Brief analysis of “A modest proposal” by Jonathan Swift
“A modest proposal” by Jonathan Swift is an ironical piece of writing as it seems to me, because of the discussion of the “modest” way of dealing with poverty and unemployment problem in Dublin, Ireland. The satirical way of representing ideas by Swift is appreciable as initially he shows sympathy for poor people by stating that they are beggars and do not have enough money to raise their children. So, there is an urgent need to take a solution for the welfare of “Commonwealth” (21). His proposal lies in the most cruel way of parents killing their children by selling them and getting money in return.
Their wards will be then, cooked and eaten up like a dish. He supports this idea by the fact that these children, if not sold, still have a bad future and will be “disposed of by their parents” (23) and he believes it is a good way. Although he knows that most people have objection with his ideas and they that they are morally wrong, he defends by saying that he is working for the betterment of the country.
Swift further strengthens his proposal by saying that it has many “advantages” (25). Firstly, it would decrease the number of “papists”, which here, according to me, is his best satire. Secondly, it would be beneficial to cooks as they will prepare tasty dishes. Moreover, it will make marriage a desire, not “enforced by law” (25).
Several other merits include he money earned by parents and the financial gains to the state. This is a good deal according to Swift and he supports his ideas by highlighting the figures or numbers of children killed or produced and mentioning amount of money earned. It seems that he is himself unaware of the fact that he is practising the “horrid practice” of killing, of which he accuses the other parents. In the epilogue, this writing has an ironical point of view and Swift states his statements with surety because he believes he himself has no benefits as he has no children.
“A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift
“A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift is a powerful and well thought out essay addressing a problem that arose in the countryside of Ireland. Swift uses satire to evoke emotion in the reader and provide motivation for those who are idling waiting for a solution to appear. The purpose of the essay was not only to address the politics and policies of that time period, but also to encourage people to think critically about motivation and values. It is important for people to actively work on solving issues around them, instead of sitting back and waiting for a solution to arise.
Swift opens up his essay by using vivid imagery to set the scene, “It is a melancholy object to those, who walk through this great town, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads and cabin-doors crowded with beggars…” (paragraph 1). This is one of the main issues presented in the essay. There is an overpopulation of people, tragically high poverty, famine, abortion, and other economical issues. Two themes we see with these issues are: social class levels and morality. When Swift talks about the poor he uses animal imagery, “…whereof only one fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle, or swine…” (paragraph 10). This is very dehumanizing to this level of the social classes. The obvious theme of morality is throughout the whole essay. This is shown through the many brutal details of how they could eat a portion of the children to eliminate some of the issues that Ireland faces. The themes, plot details, and literary forms of this work show the reader the severity of their situation and the importance of working to solve issues so that a solution like this does not take place.
“A Modest Proposal” was written during the Enlightenment era. Unlike many works done during this time period, Swift’s essay focuses on the poor. This was unusual, because most literature was about the upper class. The setting (time period, location, and culture) of this essay is crucial to the understanding of it. Jonathan Swift had just relocated to Ireland and was frustrated by the oppression of England and the degradation of the majority of the people living in Ireland. During that time, England wanted to keep Ireland weak in order to remain in control. This lead to the dehumanization of many, and Swift depicts this in his essay using animal imagery. This time period and the culture that surrounded him was a major influence for his writing.
I learned a few things from this specific work and the culture that surrounded it. The major takeaway would be that it is important to fight for what is right, and to not be passive with issues in our everyday life. Even when culture tells us that it has been that way for many years, that does not make it right. It is easy to sit back and wait for someone else to come up with a solution, but it is not the most effective and it might not be the right solution. This essay also helped me learn about another culture that I never knew about. The fact that Swift wrote this essay illustrates the severity of the situation Ireland was facing. It is heartbreaking to know that the people living there had become so accustomed to that culture and lacked motivation to work to change it.
After reading this essay, it has really made me appreciate the life that I have been able to live. It has also made me aware of how serious situations can become. This literary work has taught me to take advantage of opportunities to make a difference and I can apply this in my everyday life. This essay has shown me that whenever issues arise, I should actively work to find a solution and not sit back and watch.
Although Swift’s essay was not meant to be taken literal, his satirical take on the issues Ireland was facing at the time were relevant. Swift used this approach to evoke emotion in the reader and illustrate the severity of the situation. The most valuable thing that he portrays in his work is the importance of earnestly working to solve the issues that arise, rather than being passive and waiting for someone else to come up with a solution.
Rhetoric Means of Argumentation Used to Persuade
On the surface, Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” (1729) suggests that the most convenient method for dealing with the starving children of Ireland is to convert them into useful — and edible — members of society. His horrid proposal recommends “plumping” babies up until they reach the age of one, and then selling them as food for the rich. Swift then concludes that implementing this project will do more to solve Ireland’s social, economic, and political problems than any measure previously offered. Beneath the surface of the essay, it seems that Swift is venting his aggravation towards the Irish people for their inability to take action on their own. He is covertly claiming that the Irish must come up with a logical way to better their weak economic situation, so that the poor are not “eaten alive.” Throughout, Swift uses careful rhetoric in his writing to argue for his overt proposal. He effectively exploits the three rhetorical appeals known as pathos, logos, and ethos throughout the piece to make his bizarre idea seem convincing and logical.
These three persuasion tactics, also titled the “artistic proofs” by Aristotle, date back to ancient Greece and are used to convince and persuade an audience: all three are now established as crucial techniques in the art of rhetoric. Pathos is the Greek word for “experience” and “suffering,” and it is used to manipulate a reader’s emotions by raising sympathy or stirring anger. Logos is the Greek term for “word” and is used to convince readers by means of logic and reason. Ethos is the Greek word for “character,” and it is used to convince readers that the author is credible and reliable. Johnathan Swift was thoroughly trained in classical rhetoric at Kilkenny School and Trinity College, Dublin (Beaumont). Therefore, it is not surprising that he is able to exploit these methods in an effective manner.
Swift begins to implement his rhetorical techniques and control the readers by manipulating them with pathos. He “Illustrates the dominance of his rhetorical method over his subject matter” (Rogal), by raising sympathy. The first sentence of the essay reads, “It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads, and cabin doors, crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags and importuning every passenger for alms.” Here, Swift has already activated the emotions of the audience, and his readers are beginning to feel sorrow for the misfortune of the poor. He continues to control his readers with a strong statement, “There is likewise another great advantage in my scheme, that it will prevent voluntary abortions, and that horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children, alas!” Now, not only has he continued to captivate the readers with sympathy, but he has also invoked an anger that will cause them to support him.
As important as Swift’s use of pathos is his ongoing delivery of factual information, or his use of logos. Logos is commonly developed by constructing a logical argument; naturally, most of Swift’s persuasive piece is a significant illustration of logos. He shares precise information and specific statistics throughout the essay to support his proposal. For example, throughout his fifth paragraph he makes a few calculations, stating, “The number of souls in this kingdom being usually reckoned one million and a half, of these I calculate there may be about two hundred thousand couple whose wives are breeders; from which number I subtract thirty thousand couples who are able to maintain their own children…” This is one of the many statistical surveys that Swift offers during his proposal. His well-presented information makes his argument seem very logical, thus influencing his audience immensely.
Throughout the piece, Swift also proves that he is a credible source by displaying his character and establishing himself as the “projector” of his modest proposal, thus demonstrating proper use of ethos. The persona that he assumes is “humane, self-confident, reasonable, competent, and somewhat exhausted in his attempts to improve his native kingdom” (Beaumont). He exemplifies his humanity in the opening words of the essay by raising pity for the poor children of Ireland, and by sharing that he feels sorry for them. He is also very humble throughout his proposal, stating, “I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection” (Swift). Swift’s narrator not only exhibits his humility, but also his fair-mindedness throughout his piece. He proclaims, “After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own opinions as to reject any offer proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap, easy, and effectual” (Swift). The last example of Swift’s proper use of ethos is that he shows sincerity and unselfishness in his closing paragraph. He writes, “I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal interest in endeavoring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the public good of my country…” These examples display Swift’s character, and they encourage the audience to believe that he is reliable.
Although Swift uses pathos, logos, and ethos in his satire to discuss his apparent proposal, he also uses these persuasive techniques as well as underlying irony to argue what his work is actually about: the need for a logical solution to solve Ireland’s tragic economic state. By illustrating his outrageous plan to sell impoverished babies for food, he actually sheds light on the deeper issue at hand. Even the title, “A Modest Proposal,” suggests that what he is proposing is refined and timid, when in reality it is absurd. Swift captures the reader’s attention and directs the reader’s moral compass through this elaborately ‘modest proposal.’
Works Cited Beaumont, Charles Allen. “Swift’s Classical Rhetoric in A Modest Proposal.” Georgia Review 14.3 (Fall 1960): 307-317. Rpt. in Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800. Ed. Thomas J. Schoenberg and Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 101. Detroit: Gale, 2004. Literature Resource Center. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. “Home – Ethos, Pathos, and Logos, the Modes of Persuasion ? Explanation and Examples.” Home – Ethos, Pathos, and Logos, the Modes of Persuasion ? Explanation and Examples. N.p., 2015. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. Johnson, Maurice. “The Structural Impact of A Modest Proposal.” Bucknell Review 7.4 (May 1958): 234-240. Rpt. in Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800. Ed. Thomas J. Schoenberg and Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 101. Detroit: Gale, 2004. Literature Resource Center. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. Rogal, Samuel J. “The Timelessness of A Modest Proposal.” English Record 18.4 (Apr. 1968): 48-53. Rpt. in Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800. Ed. Thomas J. Schoenberg and Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 101. Detroit: Gale, 2004. Literature Resource Center. Web. 28 Mar. 2016. Swift, Jonathan. “A Modest Proposal.” The Literature Network. Jalic, Inc.2016. Web. March 2016.