A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

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What is the purpose of "A Modest Proposal?"  What is Swift trying to reform?  Does he go too far in this essay?

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Swift's essay, which is complete satire, is trying to reform the way the English people treated the impoverished Irish of his time. Of course, he is not actually promoting that people start to eat children; he uses this extreme example as a way to depict how inhumanely the Irish were being treated, as if they were not human, amidst the English "devouring" Ireland.


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Probably, as far as many of his contemporaries were concerned, this proposal did go too far, especially if they did not understand the text's ironic and embittered tone. Swift's point is that the situation between the wealthy English and impoverished Irish has already gone too far. He suggests that, if the English are content to treat their Irish brothers and sisters with such a lack of humanity, if they are willing to figuratively "devour" Ireland's land, resources, and government—which has resulted in terrible poverty among the Irish—then it does not require much of a leap to suggest that the English literally devour the...

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