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In "A Modest Proposal," are Swift and the narrator in agreement?

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conner55 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 22, 2011 at 10:07 AM via web

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In "A Modest Proposal," are Swift and the narrator in agreement?

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

Posted April 22, 2011 at 7:35 PM (Answer #1)

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Definitely not! One of the key aspects of this excellent satire is the way that Swift creates a persona and writes the essay as this persona. It is actually a very interesting exercise to examine and analyse the character of the narrator. Swift is careful to make his satire all the more outrageous by giving the narrator the voice of a practical economic planner. This gives the narrator an air of objectivity and common sense, even when he proposes the most monstrous of solutions. It is this gap between the style and horrific content that gives this pamphlet the force that it possesses. The narrator is obsessed about numbers, measurements and statistics, and thus Swift goes beyond the issue of the Irish Famine to protest ultimately against a statistical view of humanity. Once we start treating humans like numbers, as history has shown on so many occasions, we begin to resemble monsters that could and would eat Irish babies to "help" the famine. Swift of course takes a massive risk by writing this pamphlet. He makes himself appear monstrous in order to explose the monstrous ideas and views of others.

One aspect that is interesting is the way in which Swift presents his own views about what should be done. These come towards the end of this essay and are normally italicised to separate them from fiction. This is a very important section to focus on as we see the division between the author and the narrator and how the author has some very sensible ideas, that he obviously felt were being ignored by the powers that be.

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