A Modest Proposal: Satire at Its Best
Jonathan Swift's 1729 essay, A Modest Proposal, was a true example of satire at its best. Many readers at the time rejected the essay because they failed to understand the irony. It is presently one of the most well known works of satire and is a classic example of the technique most commonly used today. The entire essay from the title down to the last sentence were meant to be taken ironically, which is a rare form, but very effective when trying getting a point across. This essay will explain why the text was meant to be taken ironically and why Swift used irony instead of straightforward statements. Starting with the title, "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," Swift wants the reader to believe he is going to present him/her with a modest proposal to deal with Ireland's problems of famine, poverty and overpopulation. This is ironic in itself because Swifts scheme to sell and eat surplus children is not modest at all nor is it a rational solution to Irelands problems. Swift states children nowadays either grow up to be thieves or "to fight for the Pretender" (Swift 338), and blames the nation as a whole. He says poor Irish children will not find employment, since "we neither build houses, nor cultivate Land" (Swift 338). Since there are so many children serving no good purpose in Ireland Swift states that, "a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled" (Swift 339). At this point the reader realizes Swift's essay is meant to be taken ironically and that this text is more than just a proposal. Within the irony lies a deep and sustained anger. The reader sees this anger in Swifts use of vocabulary when describing women's immoral acts of abortion and murders of their bastard children. He...
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