A modest proposal essay - please help!"A modest proposal" is remarkebly consistent in its ironic voice throughout. There are however, some places where Swifts own voice intrudes. Write an essay...

A modest proposal essay - please help!

"A modest proposal" is remarkebly consistent in its ironic voice throughout. There are however, some places where Swifts own voice intrudes. Write an essay showing how these breaks in tone reveal swifts own attitude toward his subject.


I have already writen my thesis, but I am confused to what I should include as examples/body, please help =)

Expert Answers
Stephen Holliday eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many readers of "A Modest Proposal" assume that Swift's primary target throughout the essay is the English for their callous mis-treatment of Ireland and the Irish, and the English are among Swift's targets in this masterful satire.  As he makes clear at the end of the essay and as he made clear in his other writings on the "Irish question," however, he is directing this proposal to the Irish themselves, specifically, those in Ireland who make policy.

Throughout most of the essay, Swift maintains his persona of modest proposer, particularly when he is actually discussing the various elements of turning children into an edible commodity, but he does step away from the persona to address issues not directly related to his proposal.  He notes, for example, that certain people "of a desponding Spirit" are worried about the "vast Number of poor People" (the old, sick, and disabled) and wonder what can be done about them.  His response is less proposer and more Swift--not to worry:

. . . because it is very well known, that they are every Day dying, and rotting, by Cold and Famine, and Filth, and Vermin, as fast as can be reasonably expected.

In this short passage, he makes an observation that only someone intimately familiar with Ireland can make.  More important, perhaps, is the fact that the essay's audience understands that they are not only guilty because of policies that have helped destroy Ireland's economy and its people but also for their failure to enact policies to protect the most vulnerable people in this society.

At the end of the essay, Swift steps away from the proposer persona completely and explicitly indicts the Irish:

. . . I calculate my  Remedy for this one individual Kingdom of Ireland, and for no other that ever was, is, or I think ever can be upon Earth. Therefore, let no man talk to me of other Expedients: Of taxing our Absentees at five Shillings a Pound. . . Of utterly rejecting the Materials and Instruments that promote foreign Luxury. . . .

Swift goes on to create a catalogue of solutions that actually could benefit the Irish, but he concludes that he will not hear of these solutions unless there is "a Glimpse of Hope" that they will be put into practice.  Had he stayed within the essayist's persona of proposer, Swift would not have been able to discuss these solutions primarily because they would have weakened the proposal by acknowledging that real solutions already exist.

By stepping outside the persona of the modest proposer in these digressions, Swift is able to make observations and use arguments that he has used in prior direct discussions of Irish problems, and he reminds his audience that reasonable solutions already exist, if only the Irish would adopt them.



nes28 | Student

I am very appreciative of youre answer, but I feel as if you veered away from my actual question