How does "A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift show quantification and dehumanization?  

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Swift quantifies the number of children it would it take to feed the thousands and calculates the saved expenses by enacting his proposal. He begins by counting the population and the number of impoverished couples. He then estimates that there are 120,000 impoverished infants in Ireland and suggests that 20,000 female babies be spared for breeding purposes while the other 100,000 infants are sold as food. Swift even calculates the weights of the children and quantifies that it will save the country fifty thousand pounds per year.

Throughout his proposal, Swift impersonally refers to the impoverished as beggars and considers each poor person a burden on society. He refers to wives as "breeders" and those living in poverty as a "hundred thousand useless mouths and backs." He satirically suggests a barbaric approach to solving Ireland's social issues by proposing that the infants should be consumed by the wealthy. Proposed cannibalism is the most blatant example of dehumanization throughout the proposal. Swift does not attribute any positive traits other than being used for food to infants born in poverty. Children are essentially equal to animals in Swift's proposal and have no redeeming human qualities aside from plump flesh.

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Quantification and dehumanization go hand-in-hand in "A Modest Proposal." Swift views children and even parents (who he calls "breeders") solely in terms of a cost/benefit analysis. He calculates, for example, how much it costs to nurse a child "just dropt from its dam" in its first year of life, and suggests that his scheme represents a way to make these children, which he deems a burden on Irish society, "contribute to the feeding, and partly to the cloathing" of thousands of people. His "proposal," of course, is to take hundreds of thousands of Irish children and use them for food. A "good fat child," he assures the reader, will fetch a price of at least ten shillings, turning these "burdens" into sources of wealth.

So Swift (satirically, it must be remembered) dehumanizes the Irish by referring to them in exclusively economic terms. Indeed, this is part of the power of the essay, and, in a word, Swift's point. He wants to show the reader that enlightened, coldly rational schemes, while well-meaning, need to keep the humanity of man in mind. When we think of people solely as statistics, we lose sight of them as human beings, a point Swift makes clear by carrying the commodification of human beings to an absurd conclusion. So, in short, Swift dehumanizes the Irish through quantification.

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