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Arguments in Favor of Swift's Modest Proposal

By vgupta01 Oct 30, 2010 1016 Words
Jonathan swift, in ‘A Modest proposal’ criticizes the scandalous political and economic policies of English landlords against the oppressed Irish and proposes to eradicate this usual problem in the most unusual way. He uses satire and irony as his main tools to make his audience contemplate, how English landlords are shamelessly exploiting and oppressing the impoverished Irish through high rents and unfair laws. Swift paints a quick picture in the reader’s mind about the condition of the poor in Ireland when he writes ‘when they see the streets, the roads and cabin doors, crowded with beggars of female sex followed by three four or six children all in rags’. Across Ireland the poor children are living in misery because their families are too poor to feed and clothe them. He suggests the children of poor should be fed and fatten up and should be sold to rich Irish landlords. This will effectively combat unemployment and overpopulation relieving the families from the responsibilities of child bearing and will also provide them some extra income. This proposal will also directly contribute to the economic well-being of the nation. The author offers specific data about the weight and price of children including the number of children to be sold and thereby points at the numerous benefits due to this proposal. Swift’s intense use of satire and his presentation of statistical data and benefits make this essay very effective. The skillful irony that Swift employs throughout this essay justifies his arguments and raises the reader’s consciousness. It is the heart and soul of this essay, in fact the title for this essay is ironical itself. While reading this essay the reader cannot realize that swift’s argument to raise children for the purpose of breeding and eating is ludicrous. Comparing children to animals, he writes ‘I rather recommend buying the children alive and dressing them hot from the knife, as we do roasting pigs’. Though disturbing for some, these lines considerably add substance to the major theme of this essay, mocking the landlords and suggesting their indifferent attitude towards the rustics. This proposal will start a competition among parents as to who can ‘bring the fattest child to the market’ which suggests the unimaginable situation in Ireland as no parent will ever think about selling their children. His suggestion that if we need more food and money why don’t we kill our children and eat them urges the user to raise their alertness to the severity of what he is implying. Not only he proposes but he argues that the problem of the poverty in Ireland can be best taken care by selling the children of the poor to the rich breaking all moral principles. He writes ‘I think the advantages of proposal which I made are obvious and many’ and ‘infant’s flesh will be in season throughout the year but more plentiful in March’ with such normalcy as if he is stated the routine things and people should actually think and practice these. His satire urges the user to search for the deeper meaning in his proposal and raises awareness of Irish poverty.

Statistical data and benefits are the important tools used by swift to support his arguments as they make this whole proposal look realistic. The fact and figures give it a view of an economic policy proposed by the government for the financial growth and benefits of the nation and its citizens. This is exactly what Swift wanted and accomplishes when he acts like a concerned economist while providing these facts and figures for his offer. He provides calculations and details when he states that ‘one Male will be sufficient to serve four Females ‘, ‘the remaining hundred thousand may at a year old be offered in the sale’. He also presents a number of other calculations including how many babies should be sold and how many should be preserved for breeding, and how a well fed baby can be served to a family. He points out that the cost of nursing a beggars child to a year is 2 shillings and it will weigh approximately 28 pounds so that it can be sold to the landlords for 10 shillings rendering a profit of 8 shillings to the mother of the child. These calculations effectively bring into light the materialistic attitude of the rich Irish. Furthermore, He points out benefits to render his atrocious offer convincing. Listing some of the benefits he writes ‘Men would become fond of their wives, for once’ and ‘it would increase the care and tenderness of mothers towards their children’, and how the skin of children can be used to make gloves for women and boots for men. Even though the reader at some point can make out that Swift is mocking the Englishmen, these data add to the extremity of the proposal and helps the reader realize the gravity of the situation.

The proposal of growing and selling babies for the benefits of the Irish and Ireland seems absurd but it has a deeper meaning. Swift used many efficient patterns of satire and maintained his tone throughout the essay. The excellent organization consisting of introduction of the problem, introduction of the proposal and advantages of the proposal takes the reader step by step and the whole offer makes sense until we realize that it is human babies Swift is referring too. Though satirical and ironical in nature this essay was also sympathetic at times. Majorly mocking the rich swift also criticizes the poor for doing nothing to improve the condition of their lot. He concludes that this proposal will solve Ireland’s social, economic and political problems more effectively than any other measure proposed, still he is ready to hear other offers as long as they are ‘equally innocent, cheap, easy and effectual’ . He presents his ideas rationally, providing details why they are effective and his extreme callousness while suggesting those ideas dig the deeper meaning. The strong satire defends his unimaginable proposal and statistical facts and figures complement and complete his ideas.

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