His father, a Protestant Englishman who moved to Dublin during a period of increasing English settlement in Ireland, died just months before Swift was born. Despite this, and thanks to the generosity of a few relatives, Swift received the best education possible in Ireland. As a young man, Swift shuttled between Ireland and England often.
Synopsis[ edit ] This essay is widely held to be one of the greatest examples of sustained irony in the history of the English language. Much of its shock value derives from the fact that the first portion of the essay describes the plight of starving beggars in Ireland, so that the reader is unprepared for the surprise of Swift's solution when he states: He uses methods of argument throughout his essay which lampoon the then-influential William Petty and the social engineering popular among followers of Francis Bacon.
These lampoons include appealing to the authority of "a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London" and "the famous Psalmanazara native of the island Formosa " who had already confessed to not being from Formosa in In the tradition of Roman satire, Swift introduces the reforms he is actually suggesting by paralipsis: Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: Of taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound: Of using neither clothes, nor household furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture: Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury: Of curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women: Of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance: Of learning to love our country, wherein we differ even from Laplandersand the inhabitants of Topinamboo: Of quitting our animosities and factions, nor acting any longer like the Jews, who were murdering one another at the very moment their city was taken: Of being a little cautious not to sell our country and consciences for nothing: Of teaching landlords to have at least one degree of mercy towards their tenants.
Lastly, of putting a spirit of honesty, industry, and skill into our shop-keepers, who, if a resolution could now be taken to buy only our native goods, would immediately unite to cheat and exact upon us in the price, the measure, and the goodness, nor could ever yet be brought to make one fair proposal of just dealing, though often and earnestly invited to it.
Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like expedients, 'till he hath at least some glympse of hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice.
Population solutions[ edit ] George Wittkowsky argued that Swift's main target in A Modest Proposal was not the conditions in Ireland, but rather the can-do spirit of the times that led people to devise a number of illogical schemes that would purportedly solve social and economic ills.
A Modest Proposal also targets the calculating way people perceived the poor in designing their projects. The pamphlet targets reformers who "regard people as commodities". Critics differ about Swift's intentions in using this faux-mathematical philosophy.
Edmund Wilson argues that statistically "the logic of the 'Modest proposal' can be compared with defence of crime arrogated to Marx in which he argues that crime takes care of the superfluous population".
Smith argues that Swift's rhetorical style persuades the reader to detest the speaker and pity the Irish. Swift's specific strategy is twofold, using a "trap"  to create sympathy for the Irish and a dislike of the narrator who, in the span of one sentence, "details vividly and with rhetorical emphasis the grinding poverty" but feels emotion solely for members of his own class.
Lewis argues that the speaker uses "the vocabulary of animal husbandry"  to describe the Irish. Once the children have been commodified, Swift's rhetoric can easily turn "people into animals, then meat, and from meat, logically, into tonnage worth a price per pound".
In making his argument, the speaker uses the conventional, textbook-approved order of argument from Swift's time which was derived from the Latin rhetorician Quintilian. James William Johnson believes that Swift saw major similarities between the two situations.
Baker points out the similarity between both authors' tones and use of irony. Baker notes the uncanny way that both authors imply an ironic "justification by ownership" over the subject of sacrificing children—Tertullian while attacking pagan parents, and Swift while attacking the English mistreatment of the Irish poor.
Let it be, that they exposed them; Add to it, if you please, for this is still greater Power, that they begat them for their Tables to fat and eat them:It explained how beggars are useless, and the children have bad lives.
To reduce poverty and the amount of beggars on the street, the poor should sell their children at 1 year old, when the child is properly nourished, so that the family can gain money. © CommonLit. ™ | CommonLit is a (c)(3) non-profit organization. CommonLit is a (c)(3) non-profit organization. What does this quote mean in the context of A Modest Proposal?
Can you distinguish Swift's satiric voice from that of the narrator? How are the two voices different? Would Swift's essay have had as much of an impact if he seriously advocated for the reform of conditions in Ireland? What is the purpose of the closing paragraph?
Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" is one of the most savage and powerful works in the English language. Swift composed the satirical essay in the summer of , after three years of drought and crop failure had forced more than 30, Irish citizens to abandon their homes in search of work, food.
c. the blunt candor of the proposal.
d. the ironic nature of the proposal. e. the rational analysis supporting the proposal. Swift evidently wishes to have effected which of the following among members of his contemporary audience? a. They will be convinced of the soundness of the proposal.
b. A Modest Proposal and Other Satires Questions and Answers The Question and Answer sections of our study guides are a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss literature. Home A Modest Proposal and Other Satires Q & A Ask a question and get answers .