Indicate Swift’s motivational appeals, specifically those to thrift, economy, and patriotism. Explain the rhetorical strategy behind such appeals.  

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Swift writes that when Irish children are one year old, he has found a proposal to "provide for them in such a manner as instead of being a charge upon their parents or the parish...they shall on the contrary contribute to the feeding, and partly to the clothing, of many thousands." He later writes that children at one year will be able to provide "delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food," particularly for the landlords of the country. In other words, because so many children in Ireland are starving, they can simply be eaten by wealthier people. He adds that his scheme will have a collateral advantage, "by lessening the number of Papists among us." He means that there are more Catholic than Protestant children in Ireland, so this scheme will also have the happy advantage of lowering the Catholic population. In addition, this solution will increase the profitability of the stock market.

Swift's proposals are satirical in nature, and they use preposterous solutions to highlight people's greed and barbarity in not helping the poor of Ireland. His appeals to thrift, economy, and patriotism also use the rhetorical strategy of logos, or reason. He presents ideas that seem logical on the surface (though of course they are barbarous) and that improve the thrift and economy of England and that add to people's sense of patriotism about their country. He also uses pathos, or calling on the reader's sense of pity or compassion. For example, he starts his proposal by stating that is a sad sight to see the female beggars and their children in Ireland and that he wants to find a solution to this problem. Finally, he uses ethos, or an appeal to the audience that relies on the credibility of his solution and its proponents. For example, he says that "a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London" attests that a one-year-old baby constitutes a wholesome and delicious food. 

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

All of Swift's appeals are, of course, tongue-in-cheek, designed to demonstrate that when it comes to formulation social policy, rationality must be informed by morality and humanity. Economically, Swift argues that his proposal will benefit all parties (except, of course, the unfortunate Irish children.) It will save enormous sums of money, which would have been spent on raising the children, allowing them to "be rid of the charge of maintaining them." It will also give a salable property to poor Irish people and stimulate a great deal of commerce within the kingdom, especially among tavern-keepers and vintners, who "will certainly be so prudent as to procure the best receipts for dressing it to perfection." It will also, Swift tells us, foster family ties, by giving Irish mothers an economic incentive to care for their children, and husbands an incentive to care for their pregnant wives. Swift uses these arguments to satirize an excessive reliance on rationalism that he perceived in his time, and also to draw attention to the dreadful living conditions faced by people in Ireland, which was already being "eaten" by avaricious absentee English landlords.


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A Modest Proposal

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