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Please comment on the use of exaggeration in "A Modest Proposal."

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momo1412 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 5, 2011 at 10:25 AM via web

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Please comment on the use of exaggeration in "A Modest Proposal."

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

Posted March 12, 2011 at 2:45 AM (Answer #1)

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Your original question had to be edited as you are only allowed to ask one question, not multiple questions. Please remember to follow the rules of enotes in future.

Exaggeration, or hyperbole as it is also known, is evident throughout this masterful essay in the way that Swift repeatedly exaggerates his position and ideas to make himself appear more monstrous than he actually is. There are numerous examples of this, but one of my favourite parts of the essay where this is shown is when Swift finally reaches the content of his "modest proposal":

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled, and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or ragout.

Note how the long list of possible ways a child can be served is a perfect example of exaggeration. Swift could have just stopped his sentence at "wholesome food." However, by continuing the sentence and by listing the various ways of cooking a child, he makes himself out to be a kind of food connoiseur, which exaggerates his own monstrous proposal when we remember that he is not talking about beef, but about starving children in Ireland. This of course relates to the key element of satire in this incredible essay: Swift makes himself out to be a monster to expose the monstrous attitudes and behaviour in others.

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