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What does Swift mean when he refers to women as breeders in "A Modest Proposal"?

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litgirl225 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 18, 2012 at 10:46 PM via web

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What does Swift mean when he refers to women as breeders in "A Modest Proposal"?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 18, 2012 at 11:40 PM (Answer #1)

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Diction is a key element in Jonathan Swift's satirical essay "A Modest Proposal."  The speaker of the essay proposes that a possible solution to over-crowding and poverty would be to 'harvest' the excess children of poorer families and use them for food.  In the context of the essay, Swift refers to the potentially pregnant women as "breeders," his diction naturally reinforcing his persuasive stance that women could be used as breeding livestock.  Swift's diction in this essay remains carefully neutral with a scientific, impartial tone; by using terms like "breeders," the speaker neutralizes or removes the human element from the argument, making the discussion seem like it is more about livestock than actual human beings. 

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