A Modest Proposal: One of the Most Satirical Works in Literature

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February 18, 2012
ENGL 216-B03
Jonathan Swift was an author during the eighteenth century also known as the “Age of Enlightenment”. Swift is well known for his use of satire and irony in his literary works. His essay “A Modest Proposal” has became known as one of the greatest satirical works in literature. In this essay, Swift proposes that the Irish begin using cannibalism as a means to overcome their poverty and deplorable living conditions. Although Swift’s recommendation of pursuing cannibalism is sarcastic, he uses his essay as a political statement of the unfair treatment of the Irish by the British people. Jonathan Swift was born in Ireland to English parents. According to David Cody, Swift spent time in England early in his life but returned to Ireland and became an ordained Anglican minster. Politically, he started out as a member of the Whig party but switched to the opposing Tory party after learning of the Whig’s opposition to the Anglican Church (2000). In “A Modest Proposal”, Swift uses a dramatic form of irony to engage and inform the audience of deeper political and social issues. Swift used his writing skills to issue pamphlets to take a stand against the British treatment of the Irish people. The expanded title of “A Modest Proposal” is “A Modest Proposal for preventing the children of poor people in Ireland from being a burden to their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the public”(Greenblatt, 2006). The title of this pamphlet is ironic because the proposal is anything but modest, but the purpose of this essay is to inform the audience of the awful conditions the Irish people were dealing with. During the eighteenth century, the British government was treating the people of Ireland very poorly. The multiple problems between the British and Irish had been ongoing since 1199 when King John had began holding Ireland as a sister kingdom to England. The condition of Ireland had been deteriorating since then but in 1729 Swift...
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