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In "A Modest Proposal," Swift explains the anticipated results before revealing the...

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konanbkss | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 6, 2011 at 6:25 AM via web

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In "A Modest Proposal," Swift explains the anticipated results before revealing the actual proposal. Why?

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

Posted February 6, 2011 at 6:30 PM (Answer #1)

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Any case to present a proposal, as in this essay, is made stronger and more powerful if the anticipated results are presented before the actual details of the proposal itself as it focuses the readers' attention on the potential results and what could be gained rather than problems or issues arising from the proposal itself. Note how Swift is very careful to delay the actual nature of the proposal. Indeed, at the beginning of his essay, he is careful to paint a very bleak picture of the "deplorable state of the kingdom" and the "prodigious number of children." Note how he also makes a very strong ethical appeal before detailing his proposal:

There is likewise another great advantage in my scheme, that it will prevent those voluntary abortions, and that horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children, alas! too frequent among us, sacrificing the poor innocent babes, I doubt, more to avoid the expense, than the shame...

Presenting the advantages of his plan in such a reasonable fashion helps us to agree with the proposal once it is unveiled, and also raises our anticipation and curiosity as to what the proposal might be. Of course, Swift has a double purpose here, because by making us wait to hear his proposal he emphasises the horror of it when it is actually unveiled thus reinforcing his main theme: the inhumane way that the government and people of Britain viewed the starving in Ireland.

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