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In "A Modest Proposal," a clear difference exists between Swift and the persona who...

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buchin11l | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 11, 2010 at 10:04 AM via web

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In "A Modest Proposal," a clear difference exists between Swift and the persona who makes this proposal. How can the proposer be characterized?


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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 11, 2010 at 7:24 PM (Answer #1)

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Part of the immense humour of this passage is the tone that the speaker uses to make his "modest" proposal. On a literal level the speaker's tone is earnest and straightforward. On the satirical level the tone of the essay is bitter and sarcastic. The preposterous nature of the speaker's proposal is evidence of the satiric tone of the essay. However, also key to identifying and characterising the speaker is his use of language, and how this ties in with the nature of the satire.

Note how the speaker refers to mothers as "breeders" throughout. He also recommends "dressing" the babies shortly after slaughter, as if they were roasting pigs, and urges husbands to treat their pregnant wives well - just as farmers do their mares, cows and sows.

Swift then creates a speaker who, through his earnest tone and choice of language, only serves to highlight the satire of this excellent essay and underline the plight of the Irish and the cruelty of the British in doing nothing.

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