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What was your initial reaction to Swift's "A Modest Proposal?"

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symone111 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 15, 2010 at 10:26 PM via web

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What was your initial reaction to Swift's "A Modest Proposal?"

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 15, 2010 at 10:32 PM (Answer #1)

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My initial reaction to this the first time I read it was that it was really dumb.  I did not have any real background about the issues the essay addressed and so I did not really get it.

I thought that it was pretty silly to write an essay that made such a ridiculous argument.  I thought that there was no way that anyone would ever take the argument seriously and so it was pretty pointless.

I still wonder how it was received back then.  Did it actually change anyone's mind about how the government was treating Ireland?

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted March 15, 2010 at 11:33 PM (Answer #2)

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Concerning Swift's "A Modest Proposal," I'm not sure if you're asking how I or other's react to the essay, or if you have to answer this question and you're asking for ideas. 

If you're asking for ideas, I suggest you don't read any of our comments.  You should go with your initial reaction, rather than anyone else's. 

If you're asking for reactions from others, then you might as well hear mine.

The first time I read Swift's essay I was taking a satire class while working on my B.A., and I thought it was absolutely brilliant.  What an idea!  What a way to satirize a target!  Could there be any better way to condemn the English wealthy and the English government than what Swift does? 

And I thought it was hilarious.  Even those shots at we vulgar Americans were great laughs.

Any discussion about whether or not it was successful goes to the heart and effectiveness of satire itself, rather than to Swift's essay in particular. 

By the way, now I know that this was Swift's last-ditch effort to influence his targets--he'd tried everything else and nothing worked.  This didn't work either.  That would have taken some charity and compassion on the part of the English for the Irish.  And that just wasn't the case.

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