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What food does the speaker propose for landlords in "A Modest Proposal"?

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alondraaamaya | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 22, 2013 at 12:17 PM via web

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What food does the speaker propose for landlords in "A Modest Proposal"?

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 22, 2013 at 5:07 PM (Answer #1)

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Swift suggests that the landlords eat the children of their peasant tenants.

The modest proposal is that the poor have too many children, so if they start eating children they will be better off.

I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for Landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the Parents, seem to have the best Title to the Children.

There is a play on the word “dear,” which is used both to mean expensive and loved, reinforcing the satire.  Basically, Swift is saying that the landlords have destroyed the children’s parents and metaphorically devoured them, so they might as well actually devour their children.

The satire of the piece is biting.  Swift is blaming the landlords for the peasants’ problems, because they have been greedy and callous.  Obviously, he does not really expect landlords to eat their tenants’ babies, but the proposal alone is enough to get them thinking about how they treat them.


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