A Modest Proposal Reading Response
Jonathon Swift wrote A Modest Proposal in 1729 describing the very real poverty plaguing the Irish people. He lays out their misfortunes clearly and rationally, and argues, by hard-edged economic reasoning as well as from a self-righteous moral stance, for a way to turn this problem into its own solution. He draws attention to the number of starving children in Dublin. Swift goes through great pains to statistically support his proposal citing examples and generalizations of the city's birth rate, even allowing for a considerable margin of error. His proposal, in effect, is to fatten up the city's undernourished children and feed them to Ireland's rich landowners. He cites some American source as saying that children at the age of one make quite the delectable meal. He concludes that selling young children to the meat market would not only solve the problem of overpopulation and unemployment but also appease the exotic tastes of the wealthy and even improve the lot of the poor by introducing a new source of income. Swift offers statistical support for his assertions and gives specific data about the number of children to be sold, their weight and price, and the projected consumption patterns. He also anticipates that the practice of selling and eating children will have positive effects on family morality: husbands will treat their wives with more respect, and parents will value their children in ways up till then unknown. He even offers preparation advice suggesting that clever cooks would also come up with new ways of cooking the children. His conclusion is that the implementation of this project will do more to solve Ireland's complex social, political, and economic problems than any other measure that has been proposed. I must say that this was a delightful piece to read. I found it hysterically funny. The absurd irony of the piece hammered the author's views beautifully. Swift subtly inserted real solutions in his...
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