Hyperbole In A Modest Proposal

Explain hyperbole and humor in "A Modest Proposal." How do hyperbole and humor further enhance the satiric impact of the essay?

Hyperbole and humor further enhance the satiric impact of "A Modest Proposal" by highlighting the cruel treatment of poor people in England through a narrator who has no empathy for anyone except the wealthy class.

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Hyperbole is exaggeration. Swift, fed up with the rejection of his commonsense solutions to problems of poverty, creates a narrator who, in an exaggerated way, is only capable of seeing people in terms of profit.

Examples of hyperbole start with the narrator’s proposal to fatten, raise and butcher human babies, both to help the poor become self-supporting and to enrich Ireland. Swift mercilessly exaggerates the narrator’s unconscious tendency to dehumanize others. The narrator writes, for example: “I rather recommend buying the Children alive, and dressing them hot from the Knife, as we do roasting Pigs.” Such vivid, hyperbolic detail elevates the shock value of treating humans as commodities and illustrates that Swift’s narrator lacks empathy. This humor, dark as it is, comes from the slippage between the narrator’s “dollars and cents” approach to people and the reader’s larger moral awareness. Swift uses hyperbole to persuade us to turn against the narrator’s narrow...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 683 words.)

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