Cannibalism and Satire

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Cannibalism and Satire in Swift’s Proposal

Cannibalism and Satire in Swift’s Proposal
In the article “A Modest Proposal” (1729), Jonathan Swift effectively vents his aggravation in regard to the treatment of the poor in Ireland. Swift is frustrated with the Irish as well in their inability to get themselves out of the state in which they find themselves. Irony is the weapon used in this satirical essay in which Swift writes about his “proposal” of selling infants to wealthy citizens for food. The shock value that is delivered in this proposal is not its’ literal suggestion that cannibalism be the answer to a common problem of the day, but that in the beginning of the essay, Swift introduces the problem as if he is about to make a suggestion toward a legitimate solution. Proposing cannibalism in any serious venue will always bring shock to an audience. In the case of “A Modest Proposal” (1729), the intention is to show the ridiculousness that is currently plaguing Ireland by English tyranny. James Ward states in his article “Bodies for Sale” (2007) that Swift has found a, “use for a previously unmarketable product”(283). While Ward thinks that Swift’s ideas are an ingenious solution, he suggests that the consumers of that day were struggling with excessive consumption and an urge to help less fortunate people (283). A strong sense of compassion comes to the reader at the beginning of this essay and Swift shares this compassion for the poor people in Ireland, but also feels they should try to further themselves. He adds into his essay the judgments of the people toward beggars and opportunists, and shows the economic reality that exists among the citizens of Ireland. It is interesting that he starts off with this description, and it causes the audience to somehow feel compassion for the beggars as well. The children especially who have to work or beg in order to help the family survive, and the mothers’ who resort to prostitution in order to make ends meet....
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