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In Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal", what are some ways in which the proposal...

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genavie9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 22, 2013 at 1:33 PM via web

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In Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal", what are some ways in which the proposal appears to be a rational approach to Ireland's over-population and poverty?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 22, 2013 at 11:08 PM (Answer #1)

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Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" is a renowned satirical essay in which Swift proposes that the poor children are eaten (an an effort to reduce the population and provide monetary income for the parents of the children sold as food). While readers today are well aware of Swift's satirical nature, many who read the text when first published were utterly shocked. 

While many do not actually look at the proposal as providing a realistic approach to Ireland's problem with overpopulation and poverty, some critics could find some aspects of the text which prove to be realistic in nature. Swift constructs a very sad image of "great towns" in the opening of the proposal: "crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags." These mothers and children are begging for money from each and every person who pass. 

Swift's proposal, to eat the children of Ireland, possesses a realistic aspect when he defines what is happening to the children of Ireland "now." According to Swift, his proposal would take the place of the "horrid practice of women" murdering their own children. Realistically, this is actually a rational thought. While one dos not have to agree that the children need to be eaten, one can argue that children should not be murdered. Swift's argument, in this aspect, proves to be very rational. 

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