Jonathan Swifts : a Modest Proposal

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  • Topic: Ireland, Jonathan Swift, England
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  • Published : November 23, 2011
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Research Report on Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal ”

Emma Perry
Paris District High School

October 24th 2011


1. Introduction

A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift was written in 1729 using diction and political and social references from that time period, which may provide a challenge for a student reader in a 2011 classroom. The full title of Swift’s essay is “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People from Being a Burden to their Parents, or the Country, and for making them Beneficial to the Publick.” This satirical essay is attempting to find a simple method for converting the starving children of Ireland into useful members of society.

1.1 Background Information

Through irony, satire and exaggeration Swift explains that across the country poor children, mainly Catholics are living in filth because their families are too meager to keep them fed and clothed. The author continuous on to state that the problem of poverty in Ireland can best be fixed by selling the children of the lower class as food to the wealthy.


Swift originally published A Modest Proposal using the popularize pamphlet form using the standard essay format with an introductory paragraph stating the thesis, body paragraphs and a conclusion. What differentiated this essay from others, and made it superior to most was Swifts successful use of Historical Content, direct connection with the Audience, Satire/Humour, perfectly executed Irony, and the use of Logos vs. Pathos vs. Ethos.

2. Historical Content

2.1 English-Irish Political relationships

Years before A Modest Proposal was written British groups began invading Ireland for need of land for there growing kingdom, and had established there own laws and created their own parliament in Ireland. Penal Laws were created specifically designed to reduce the Catholics as the dominant religion in Ireland, laws like Catholics banned from public office or parliament, and...
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