Satire, Swift, and "A Modest Proposal"One very famous pamphlet Jonathan Swift wrote was A Modest Proposal. What did he suggest in that satrical work and why did he advocate such a drastic practice?

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urthona's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #2)

Swift's proposer (an economist) suggests that Ireland could solve its poverty and overpopulation problems if its poor people would rear children, kill them, and sell them as food.

This satirical work shows Swift's sympathy for Ireland’s poor, oppressed Catholic population, as well as his anger toward wealthy Irish landowners and absentee English landlords, who were gouging Irish peasants with outrageously high land rents. (Note the proposer's statement, "The English are devouring the Irish.") It also demonstrates Swift's frustration with England’s Parliament for not protecting the Irish and with the Irish people for not taking action to solve their own problems.

Swift also mocks a popular theory of British economists of the period: that people constituted the real wealth of a country.

lewismct's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #3)

Swift's modest proposal was satirical and therefore not to be taken at face value.  "A Modest Proposal" grows out of Swift's furious indignation, his disgust with English oppression and Irish corruption and stupidity.  Swift creates a character the "projector," who analyzes conditions rather than assigning blame for them.  The projector's voice is calm and rational when he suggest poor babies be used as flesh for the starving Irish and therefore improve the economy.  He supposes that one thtousand "families in this city would be constant customers for infants' flesh" and that the infants could also be served at meetings, "particularly weddings and christenings."  It is a exceptionally ironic suggestion that roasted infants would be offered as sustenance for weddings, the union of a man and wife who would plan to start their own family, and at christenings, when babies are baptised.

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