Week 4, Assignment 1
January 29, 2012
Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal
I choose a writing by Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal written in 1729. The piece starts off innocent enough, describing the dark realities of the day. (Swift, 1729) The setting is in the year 1729, Ireland. (Swift, 1729) The poor lined the streets, mostly mothers and their children, begging for food or money for food and necessities. (Swift, 1729) His description of their living conditions reminded me of a painting by William Hogarth, Gin Lane, 1751. (Sayre, 2011) Although Swift did not insinuate these people caused their own turmoil from the abuse of alcohol but instead, their government was to blame. (Swift, 1729) The surprising part was Swift’s solution to the problem of poverty facing Ireland was that he proposes that they eat the children. (Swift, 1729) The essay claims that England, through its oppressive economic policies, cut the life line of many of the people in Ireland. (Swift, 1729) Mothers are forced to spend all their time strolling the streets begging for sustenance for their helpless infants, who will eventually turn into thieves and beggars themselves. (Swift, 1729) With few options, these people would probably either leave the country or be sold to Barbados if they don’t die first of male nutrition or disease. (Swift, 1729) Swift describes this as the “deplorable stat of the kingdom.” (Swift, 1729) The satire is meant to be sarcastic and mocks the government’s treatment of its people. (Sayre, 2011) Irishmen worked on farms owned by Englishmen who charged them such high rents that they were frequently unable to pay them, and consequently lived on the brink of starvation. (Sayre, 2011) In essence, the English were consuming the Irish young figuratively, why not literally. (Sayre, 2011) Swift, in reacting to what he saw suggests that Irish families, who could not afford to feed...