Jonathan Swift's

Topics: Irony, A Modest Proposal, Rhetoric Pages: 3 (899 words) Published: March 1, 2007
Jonathan Swift – Rhetorical Analysis

"A Modest Proposal", by Jonathan Swift, is a biting satire about life in 18th century Ireland, in which the author seeks to find "a fair, cheap, and easy method" to transform the sick and starving children of Ireland into productive members of society. Paragraph 20 -26 of the essay illustrates the advantages of Swift's proposal, hardly modest, which is to fatten up undernourished poor children and then sell them to more well-to-do families as food. By presenting this outrageous concept as an interrelated string of seemingly logical arguments, Swift leads the reader to understand that his proposal could simultaneously solve overpopulation and unemployment, save the poor from having to spend their meager resources on raising children, provide the poor with desperately needed extra income, and also give the wealthy access to a yet untapped high-protein delight. Of course, Swift is writing tongue-in-cheek, to shock the reader into rejecting his outrageous negative proposal and instead formulate a more sensible positive one. Swift establishes his credibility by having his speaker reflect his reasonableness, his competence (usually through elaborate mathematical proofs, such as in the 23rd paragraph in which he computes the amount of money that will be gained as profit if his proposal is followed), his mental astuteness, his conservative estimates and evaluations. Even though, he seemingly establishes his credibility in order to make his ideas seem worthwhile, he truly is being ironic Swift's speaker boldly announces as the proof of the value of his proposal: "I think the Advantages by the Proposal which I have made are obvious, and many, as well as of the highest Importance." This, in fact, is an ironic statement, for his proposal, in reality, is not possible, let alone important. In the proof the speaker reflects his compassion for the "poorer Tenants" who "will have something valuable of their own" if the proposal is put...
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