How can we criticise " A Modest proposal" By Jonathan Swift according to events in history at the time of the essay? What events influenced Swift's writing of "A Modest Proposal"?

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kristenfusaro eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Swift wrote "A Modest Proposal" as a satirical solution to aide the 1729 Irish impoverished population; he suggested that they sell their children to the upper classes for food. Contrary to popular belief, Swift's piece was written over a hundred years before the Irish famine; however, the impoverished Irish, much like the impoverished of any culture, had a difficult time feeding their large families. He suggests the selling of children to solve two problems - overpopulation and starvation. Of course, this piece is mocking the can-do, sweeping solutions of the political Irish who believed that there was an easy cure-all for problems such as overpopulation and starvation. Swift was criticized for approaching the problem with sarcasm instead of offering a true solution, and he was also criticized for mocking the positive outlook the Irish people had on their problems.

kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the other major reasons that Swift wrote "A Modest Proposal" was the absolute unwillingness of anyone in power at the time to seek to address the problem, especially since many of the conditions that led to the problems were caused by English policies in Ireland at the time.  The wealthy lords that were given much of the land in Ireland were busy abusing the people to make as much profit as they could from their estates but they had zero interest in the actual plight of the peasants who farmed the land they owned.

Because of these high rents and other policies, the elite were exacerbating the problems rather than seeking solutions and Swift wanted to call attention to the plight of the Irish as well as perhaps shaming the elite in England to begin to address the problems rather than ignoring them.

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A Modest Proposal

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