First, it is important to understand satire. Satire is when an author uses humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to criticize people’s stupidity or vices. One of the most important satirical devices used by Swift is exaggeration. When Swift says the following: “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 a ragout,” he does not really mean he wants the people of his time to eat babies. He is exaggerating his point in order to show people that children are starving in Ireland, and it would be a good thing to do something about it. Yes, his proposal to use babies as food seems harsh and a little scary, but what he is really saying to his own government is: “Look! There are starving people in the streets, starving women and children. What are you doing to do about it?”
Swift is also the master of irony. Statements like: “I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children,” are excellent examples of irony. Swift says this food will be somewhat dear, meaning expensive (obviously, if people are losing their children) and therefore good food for landlords who are already eating the parents alive. Here, Swift makes fun of the outrageous rents and poor living conditions of his time. By taking something as precious and innocent as a child and suggesting that it should be made into a meal, Swift is mocking the people who pass by women and children begging every day and do nothing about it.