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What are three major points in "A Modest Proposal" that Swift advocates and was his...

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riveav | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Honors

Posted February 16, 2009 at 3:56 AM via web

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What are three major points in "A Modest Proposal" that Swift advocates and was his plan met to free babies?

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kmieciakp | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted February 16, 2009 at 5:11 AM (Answer #1)

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Okay, so flip to the last or second to last page of the essay, to a little ways after the part where he outlines some advantages in different paragraphs that each start with a numbering term: "Firstly . . . Secondly . . . Thirdly . . . Fourthly . . . Fifthly . . ."   So go past that list and you'll see him talk about how he could list more advantages and then start a new section with "I can think of no objections to my proposal unless . . ."," going on to say if someone else can come up with a better proposal, then great, let's hear it, but don't tell me something that you're not going to follow through on.

And then in about the middle of the paragraph he starts his real solutions, in a section that's often but not always italicized--anyway, that section starts like this: "Therefore, let no man talk to me of other expedients:."  Then all those ideas are what he really proposes--they're his real ideas for solutions.

But one more thing--the essay's not really about eating babies--or about freeing babies.  All the baby stuff is a way out there way to grab everyone's attention--the baby eating idea mocks the way Ireland's just letting itself be "devoured" by the English--so the narrator proposes Ireland go ahead an devour itself--and see all the benefits?  Isn't that a great idea?  So do-able, so economical, and mmmm!so tasty too! 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 16, 2009 at 9:03 AM (Answer #2)

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To respond further to the satirical approach in "A Modest Proposal,"  Swift suggests that the English and Irish landowners are literally killing the poor Irish by causing the poverty and misery of the population.  That his "modest proposal" is directed at England is unquestionable when Swift writes that since the meat of the babies would not withstand preservation in salt for long sea voyages, he could suggest a country that would be glad to eat up the entire nation.  And, like all good satire, Swift does provide a realistic list of alternative solutions to Ireland's problems of poverty and neglect:

...Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury;  Of curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women:  Of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance:  Of learning to love our country,....Of quitting our animosities and factions, nor acting any longer like those who were murdering one another at the very moment their city was taken:  Of being a little cautious not to sell our country and consciences for nothing;...Lastly, of putting a spirit of honesty, industry, and skill into our shop-keepers,...

Unfortunately, this great work of satire did not obtain the reaction that it desired, for none of Swifts's real and truly "modest" proposals were followed.

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