Because “A Modest Proposal” is such a deeply ironic work, the use of ethos, pathos and logos differs markedly from their normal usage in, for instance, a political speech. All these rhetorical devices are typically used to persuade the audience to agree with the speaker or writer. Here, they are all used to horrify the reader by the callous inhumanity of the argument. This is the principal reason why logos is the most prevalent device. The cool appraisal of what a child is worth considered as a piece of meat is intended to provoke outrage at the heartlessness of such a calculation. This effect is exacerbated by the references to women as “breeders” and the constant comparisons with sheep and cattle.
Swift’s calculations are a particularly effective way of using logos to convey human tragedy more effectively than pathos could, by including a mass of human misery in apparently dispassionate statistics:
I again subtract fifty thousand for those women who miscarry, or whose children...
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