Satire in a Modest Proposal

Topics: Satire, A Modest Proposal, Encyclopædia Britannica Pages: 4 (1564 words) Published: April 20, 2011
Satire in Swift’s A Modest Proposal
Jonathon Swift’s A Modest Proposal is one of the greatest works of satire in literature today. Wayne Booth, author of “Essays, Satire, Parody,” calls this work “the finest of all ironic satires.” Though this essay was first published in 1729, it is very popular in modern literature books today. In this essay, I will explore the use of satire in this work. Swift’s essay was printed in the form of a pamphlet arguing that the problem of poverty in Ireland can best be remedied by selling the children of the poor as food for the wealthy. “At the time of its publication, 1729, a pamphlet was a short work that took a stand on a political, religious, or social issue—or any other issue of public interest. A typical pamphlet had no binding, although it sometimes had a paper cover. Writers of pamphlets, called pamphleteers, played a significant role in inflaming or resolving many of the great controversies in Europe in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, as well as in the political debate leading up to the American Revolution,” (Cummings). Swift’s bizarre idea to raise children as livestock is an expression of Swift's outrage at what he saw as the shameful policies of the Irish and English governments, and he uses the unspoken voice of the economist, an abundance of detail, and other irony and parody to shocking effect. At the same time Swift points his hysterical satire at Catholic and Protestant denominations and present-day economic theories. A Modest Proposal is an incomparable and brilliant work, and it continues to gain critical attention to this day. The main aspect that is present throughout the proposal is satire. In order to understand this further, a reader has to comprehend that Swift, becoming infamous after Gulliver’s Travels, was a member of the upper-class. From the first paragraph Swift attempts to fool his readers by the satirical scene that he presents. For example, he mentions that it is a melancholy sight to see...

Bibliography: EBSCO. Web. 23 Mar. 2011.
Swift, Jonathan. "A Modest Proposal." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 8th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006. 1114-119. Print.
Tilton, John W. "The Two 'Modest Proposals ': A Dual Approach to Swift 's Irony." Bucknell Review 14.3 (1966): 78-88. Rpt. in Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800. Ed. Thomas J. Schoenberg and Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 101. Detroit: Gale, 2004. Literature Resource Center. Web. 23 Mar. 2011.
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