The Modest Proposal
In “A Modest Proposal” Jonathan Swift makes use of satire to explore the political, social, and economical issues affecting the people of Ireland in the early 1700’s. What starts out as an average political pamphlet, listing all the complaints that the upper class of the Irish society will readily agree to, soon takes a drastic turn as the solution to all of Ireland’s problems seems to be, as Jonathan Swift argues, cannibalism. A brief glance into his proposal might give one the impression that Swift crosses a line in his solution but with his use of satire the reader cannot help but continue reading. A deeper look into his proposal reveals that Swift might not be crazy and his idea of cannibalism might metaphorically already exist in the Irish society. Using satire Swift draws attention to and criticizes the three causes of Ireland’s current state: the tyranny of the wealthy, the oppression of the poor and the degradation of the Irish people. Jonathan Swift would be considered by most, to be from the upper class of society. His “proposal” even was to be read by the upper class but in it, he claims that it is the upper class themselves that is to blame for Ireland’s current dismal state. Swift’s idea of cannibalism, and fattening up a starving segment of society to feed the rich, is a critique of how things currently are in Ireland. Swift claims that the rich, especially the landlords, have the highest right to feast on the Irish children as they have already feasted and “devoured” the flesh of their parents. Both of these function as a protest against how the peasantry is exploited in the Irish society. In his proposal Swift also assigns a portion of the blame for Ireland’s economic situation to Irish landlords who often govern from abroad, thus funnelling all the fruits of Irish labour out of Ireland and into England’s economy. Ironically, Swift’s proposal literally targets the lower class of society but in actuality is a plea for them...
Bibliography: Swift, Jonathan. “A modest proposal.” 1729. Quotidiana. Ed. Patrick Madden. 19 Dec 2007. 17 Feb 2010
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