A Modest Proposal
Jonathan Swift, a celebrated name during the eighteenth century, was an economist, a writer, and a cleric who was later named Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. Although Swift took on many different roles throughout his career, the literary form of satire seemed to be his realm of expertise. Because satire flourished during the eighteenth century, Jonathan Swift is arguably one of the most influential political satirists of his time. In one of his famous essays, A Modest Proposal, Swift expresses his anger and frustration towards the oppression of the Irish by the English government. In order to gain attention from his audience, Swift proposes the outrageous thesis that the solution to Ireland’s problem of poverty is to feed children of the poor to the wealthy, aristocratic families. To whom Swift is directing his satire towards is a multifaceted question. Taking on the persona of an intellectual economist, Swift attacks England for their ignorance, criticizes the Irish for their submissive ways, and on a deeper level, censures the reader who embodies all that disregard the cruelties of the world.
Although Ireland was an autonomous kingdom during the eighteenth century, the English Parliament still exerted its power from afar. The weak social relations made it so that England overlooked the economical instability in Ireland. The anger that lies behind A Modest Proposal holds both England and Ireland dually responsible for the turmoil. This is illustrated first by dehumanizing the Irish people. The proposer compares them to livestock, referring to the women as “breeders” (Swift 342), and proposes, “a young healthy child” will serve as “a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled” (Swift 342). By doing this, Swift criticizes both the English government for merely viewing the people of Ireland as insignificant, and also attacks the Irish for allowing themselves to be reduced to that of...
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