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What is Swift's satirical method in "A Modest Proposal" and how does it address the...

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xxmochi | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted March 12, 2011 at 1:06 PM via web

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What is Swift's satirical method in "A Modest Proposal" and how does it address the his satirical message?

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

Posted March 12, 2011 at 9:16 PM (Answer #1)

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Swift's famous essay takes a contemporary issue--the Irish Famine--and the British government's response to it and then satirises the situation in his treatise by assuming the voice of a statistical planner. You might want to think about the number of times that statistics are referenced. Consider the following example:

I have reckoned upon a medium, that a child just born will weigh twelve pounds, and in a solar year if tolerably nursed increaseth to twenty-eight pounds.

Note how Swift makes every effort to present himself as a reasonable, logical man who has thought through his sums with great care, even trying to establish a "medium" of a baby's birth weight. We need to be aware of the wider implications of what Swift is satirising. He is not just trying to satirise the response of the British government--he is also protesting against a view of humanity where humans are treated as numbers and mothers to "breeders" and babies to a food source. Swift's satirical method is to make himself appear as the most chilling, cold-blooded monster possible so as to reveal similar attitudes in his audience.

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