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I have to answer questions on Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Propoal" and I need help with...

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jessica35 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted February 14, 2010 at 11:45 AM via web

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I have to answer questions on Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Propoal" and I need help with these questions as I don't really understand all the concepts.

When did it first become apparent to you that Swift's proposal was not serious?

If Swift does not actually think the Irish people should eat their children, what does he think they should do?


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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 14, 2010 at 11:55 AM (Answer #1)

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It is a little hard to say, since I have never read this thinking it was serious.  But I would say that you really start to suspect in the paragraph when Swift starts talking about selling the children.  He talks about how much they could sell for and that just doesn't seem realistic at all.

However, you can't really be sure (he could have been talking about selling them as apprentices or indentured servants) until he starts talking about how good they taste.  At that point, it's pretty obvious.

His real proposals come towards the end of the essay. They are the things that he rejects as crazy.  This is the part that starts "therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients:"


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epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted February 14, 2010 at 12:25 PM (Answer #2)

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In Swift's second paragrpah, he thinks of a "fair, cheap, and easy method of making these children sound, useful members of the commonwealth...." After this phrase, one must assume that there is no easy, fair and cheap method of doing anything. He piques the reader's interests by suggesting that there is a way to deal with the problem of child overcrowding.

Swift's own ideas come in the third to the last paragraph:

Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: Of taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound: Of using neither cloaths, nor houshold furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture: Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury: Of curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women: Of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance: Of learning to love our country, wherein we differ even from Laplanders, and the inhabitants of Topinamboo: Of quitting our animosities and factions, nor acting any longer like the Jews, who were murdering one another at the very moment their city was taken: Of being a little cautious not to sell our country and consciences for nothing: Of teaching landlords to have at least one degree of mercy towards their tenants. (Swift, 36)

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