Irony in "A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift.

Topics: A Modest Proposal, Jonathan Swift, Satire Pages: 2 (532 words) Published: July 6, 2003
Irony in "A Modest Proposal"

The pamphlet by Jonathan Swift, originally titled, "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," starts out as an absurd attempt at solving the poverty and famine problem in Ireland. The proposal solves the problem but is in complete conflict with our ethical and moral values. However, his proposal is not to be taken literally and is actually part of a much bigger plan. This is where Swift's irony comes into play. The use of irony in Jonathan Swift's pamphlet makes his statement very powerful.

In his pamphlet, Jonathan Swift proposes that poor beggar mothers should sell their children when they have turned one year old. He figures these children have no future except to live the lives of their beggar parent or to become thieves. Rather then being a burden on society and their breeders, their mothers, they will be made useful as a form of nourishment and as a source of income for their parents. This will in-turn provide more jobs for butchers and cooks, which will get the beggars off of the streets.

Swift, however, is not seriously considering this as a possible solution to the problem in his motherland, Ireland. He is using the irony and the extremity of the solution to illustrate how grave the real problem is. Placing the blame on the beggar children for the poor conditions in Ireland is one way Swift uses irony. In reality the problem lies with the rich English landowners. This is portrayed in a very powerfully ironic statement, "I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children." They have taken everything from these once prosperous people and have left them with nothing. In a sense the rich landowner have already eaten the parents, what would be so different about...
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