An Analysis of "A Modest Proposal"

Topics: Jonathan Swift, Satire, Irish people Pages: 3 (778 words) Published: March 30, 2014

Jonathan Swift, author of “A Modest Proposal”, wrote about the starving people of Ireland in the early 1700′s.   The purpose of his argument is to raise awareness to the wealthy of the issue.  Swift, a priest at St. Patrick’s Cathedral composed the satirical essay due to his want for a resolution for the underprivileged people in Ireland.   Swift wants to bring the issue to light for the wealthy Irish class.  Swift assumes that his audience will be upset and bothered by his suggestion to sell and eat poor children.  Swift also assumes that people genuinely care about their fellow Irishmen and will move for a solution.

Swift uses an assorted system of rhetoric in “A Modest Proposal” that gives readers a “love-hate” relationship with the speaker. In the opening paragraph, the reader is sympathetic towards the speaker because of the language used by Swift to demonstrate not only his sympathetic views of the poor, but that he does not share the common belief that the poor are poor because they made themselves that way. He then shows his sympathies for the unprivileged women and children. He then says that the mothers are “forced” to spend “all their time” walking about the streets of Ireland begging for “sustenance for their helpless infant” (220). The robust words “forced” and “helpless” compels the reader to feel sympathetic towards the children and mothers. This shared sympathy creates a strong bond between the reader and the speaker.

After the bond of trust is established, Jonathan Swift destroys it by employing several terms and phrases that dehumanize and put humans on the level of an animal. He says “a child dropped from its dam” to dehumanize woman and compare women to animal in how they give birth to many children, presumably that animals tend to have numerous young (221). Another common term used throughout the text is “breeder”. Swift employs "breeder" to depict the idea that the only roles of women are to reproduce and then sell them to the...

Cited: Barnet, Sylvan, and Hugo Adam Bedau. "A Modest Proposal." Current issues and enduring questions: a guide to critical thinking and argument, with readings. 10th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin 's, 2002. 220-26. Print.
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