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Why does Swift use satire to express his main idea in "A Modest Proposal"?

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littledebbie1779 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 27, 2012 at 3:37 PM via web

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Why does Swift use satire to express his main idea in "A Modest Proposal"?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 27, 2012 at 4:38 PM (Answer #1)

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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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