How does "A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift use satire?

"A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift uses satire by assuming the role of an English Protestant and suggesting that the Irish eat their children to exaggerate and ridicule prejudice against Irish people and criticize the English's rule over the Irish.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "A Modest Proposal," Swift uses satire to savage the English establishment for its treatment of Ireland as well as mock what he sees as the pretensions of the gentleman scientists of the Royal Society. He makes his satire all the more effective by writing it in the form of a learned scientific paper, the kind that would be read out by a scientist to his learned fellows at the Royal Society, England's foremost national academy of sciences.

The "Proposal" expertly cloaks the heartlessness of the English political establishment in Ireland with the disinterested style of the natural scientist. What the fictitious author of the "Proposal" is putting forward is immoral and disgusting, but in using the language of science, he's able to give his revolting ideas a facade of academic respectability.

What Swift is driving at here is the way that those in positions of authority—be it scientific, political, intellectual, or whatever—routinely abuse language to hide their true intentions. This is...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 926 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on November 14, 2019