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There are several reasons why Jonathan Swift favours satire as a stylistic device in “A Modest Proposal” and several of his other works. The first is that it can be much more entertaining than a straightforward recitation of facts and statistics. The next is that the satire – the very idea that people might be so driven and desperate by hunger as to sell their children – makes the point vivid in a concrete way. The final reason, and I expect the most important, is that satire is the literary equivalent of the philosophical and rhetorical genre of reductio ad absurdum. Swift takes a common assumption of his period, namely that if the Irish were just more enterprising they could feed themselves, and shows how it leads to absurd or impossible consequences.
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