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Can you identify the perspective or narrator in a modest proposal?  What is the...

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yaya92 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 12, 2011 at 6:28 PM via web

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Can you identify the perspective or narrator in a modest proposal?

 

What is the perspective of the story?

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted October 15, 2011 at 12:08 PM (Answer #1)

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This piece of satiric writing by Swift is one of the best examples of satire in the English language.  Swift lures the reader in and then packs a wallop with the actual details of his proposal.  Part of the effectiveness of the piece is that the narrator/speaker seems completely sane and rational, well-educated and to be logical and thoughtful person, and yet he is calmly proposing that the Irish could solve their financial woes by raising their children to be food. With those words the reader is completely aghast! They are asking themselves "who would so matter-of-factly propose such a plan?" The writing continues to the very end with a tone of pure logos -- no pathos.  It is this seemingly logical speaker that is what is so troubling.  It is never stated who, exactly, he is, but he could be a social planner, a politician, an economist, a government worker, a social scientist or any other kind of learned person.  People in Swift's day and all the way to the present day ask "Did he (Swift) or the speaker (as character) really mean it?" They are completely drawn in. They have to know that no one would seriously suggest such a plan. They appear to have missed the later part of the piece where the speaker says something about all of the other "reasonable solutions" there could be to the solution to Irish poverty -- actual, real, solutions that would take little effort to try.THOSE are what Swift wanted to point out to his audience: there are lots of reasonable things the English could do to improve the situation of their kingdom, but they aren't even trying. Swift's narrator sartorially suggests something horrifying, but the real proposals are right under everyones' noses.

 

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