December 17, 2010
“A Modest Proposal”
In “A Modest Proposal” Jonathan Swift adopts the persona of a concerned economist who suggests that, in order to better fight the poverty and overpopulation of Ireland, the children of the poor should be sold as food to the wealthy. He argues that the population will be reduced, but the income of the poor will increase significantly as they sell their children. A modest proposal uses satirical elements such as exaggeration, irony, and sarcasm to make its point. Swift wrote “A Modest Proposal” to get people’s attention to abuses inflicted on Irish Catholics by English Protestants. Swift was a Protestant, but he was also a native of Ireland. He believed England was exploiting and oppressing Ireland. Throughout the essay we can ensure that Swift’s persona is very convincing by the six steps he gave the readers in the essay. Swift is also very determined about what he believes should happen to the overpopulation of Ireland.
Swift begins detailing his proposal by saying, “I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.” The use of exaggeration of society accepting cannibalism is almost laughable. In using the word "modest" to describe his proposal, Swift introduces an exaggeration of epic proportions. The utilization of such an unassuming word to describe a suggestion as horrific and appalling as that which is described in the proposal is utterly ludicrous in principle, and this is precisely why it is so effective in its application. Swift exaggerates how the English treat the Irish so badly. He believes that the English treats Irish people as food, “I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing and wholesome food….and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout.”