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I have to present an oral presentaion and i was wondering what types of things about "A...

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chronicrapture | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 2, 2013 at 2:23 AM via web

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I have to present an oral presentaion and i was wondering what types of things about "A Modest Proposal" i could discuss. i have to talk for 10 minutes and it has to be specific, not an entire analysis of the satire.

I had the idea of writing my own satire and comparing them, but I dont know if I have the time. I also thought of painting a picture of the poor presented in the satire and discussing Swift's use of imagery. I'd like more ideas because these are a little time consuming. Thank you!

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 2, 2013 at 10:29 AM (Answer #1)

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The most important thing about "A Modest Proposal" is the way in which Swift takes an extremely serious subject, the desperate plight of the Irish poor, and treats it with humor. He shows that there is more than one way to present a thesis. That seems to be the most important lesson for contemporary writers. You might compare "A Modest Proposal" to George Orwell's Animal Farm, for example, and show how Orwell takes an extremely serious topic and treats it as a sort of fairy tale in order to make it interesting to a wider audience, even including children. You might also compare it with William Golding's Lord of the Flies for the same purpose. Another possible comparison would be with Graham Greene's short story "The Destructors."

It was Jonathan Swift who showed writers that ideas can be presented in original, interesting formats. The three works I mention as possible comparison are frequently assigned reading in high schools and colleges, and consequently they are thoroughly covered in eNotes reference material.

Swift addresses the reader as if he takes it for granted that the reader is no better than a cannibal because of the way the English have been exploiting and oppressing the Irish. He acts as if he assumes the English reader will take his proposal at face value and seriously consider importing Irish babies to be cooked and eaten. He carries the idea so far that he is actually suggesting recipes for cooking babies. The idea is so bizarre that it shocks the reader and captures his attention.

You might consider the effectiveness of Swift's essay, whether it actually did any good in ameliorating the conditions of the Irish, and if so, how. For this purpose you could refer to the abundant reference available on "A Modest Proposal" right here in eNotes.

I don't think you should consider writing your own satire, because you would be inviting comparison with one of the world's greatest satirists. I don't think you should consider writing a literal description of the conditions of the Irish poor, because that is exactly what Swift decided to avoid. He may have started out with the notion of writing a straightforward description of the deplorable conditions in Ireland and a condemnation of absentee English landlords and decided, "What's the use? This is old news. There must be a more effective way of handling the same theme." His indignation was so bitter and so extreme that it actually turned into humor and inspired a literary masterpiece.

There are 212 questions about "A Modest Proposal" in eNotes Homework Help. If you click on the modest-proposal/homework-help reference link below and browse through the questions and answers, you ought to pick up many excellent ideas for your presentation. LOL

(Personally, I like the idea of comparing "A Modest Proposal" with Animal Farm--just in terms of presenting a serious subject in a new light. The fact that both these works have become classics still read by millions all over the world proves their intrinsic value.)

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