Explain narrative versus satire as effective techniques employed in nonfiction essays for critiquing society, exposing the evils of colonialism or imperialism, and calling for an end to oppression...

Explain narrative versus satire as effective techniques employed in nonfiction essays for critiquing society, exposing the evils of colonialism or imperialism, and calling for an end to oppression in "A Modest Proposal."

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the wiliest writers of his time, Jonathan Swift employed satire so skillfully that he accomplished the goal of this literary style; that is, he was able to shape his criticism so artistically that his audiences found it enjoyable to read, regardless of their approval or disapproval of his points.  

Swift's "A Modest Proposal" is a shocking satire that is unsparing in its ridicule of the treatment of the Irish by the British landlords and rulers. For, by adopting the voice of a dispassionate economist, with extreme irony, the proposal is made with dispassionate diction and mathematical figures that the British landowners solve the problems of the starving Irish-Catholic poor by fattening up their children and eating them. Thus, Swift shockingly suggests that since the British are figuratively "eating" the Irish by consuming all the wealth in Ireland, they may as well do so literally. 

This shocking proposal in his satire has been criticized as having gone too far as it strikes at the core of humanity in its reference to cannibalism; nevertheless, Swift is effective in his brutal irony as he calls attention to the Protestant British who desired to be rid of "Papists" by attrition and victimization. Since many British landlords in Irish lived in England, the profits of their plantations, served by the poor Irish, were taken out of the country instead of benefiting the Irish economy in the exploitation of imperialism. 

Swift's satire is directed both at the British and at the Irish, who have allowed themselves to be exploited. In addition, he criticizes the Irish men, who are neglectful of and even abusive of their wives. If the Irish babies could bring the families money as a food supply, Swift suggests,

Men would become as fond of their wives, during the time of their pregnancy, as they are now of their mares in foal, their cows in calf, or sow when they are ready to farrow; nor offer to beat or kick them (as is too frequent a practice) for fear of a miscarriage.

Thus, Swift exhorts the Irish people to take charge of their own lives and, in so doing, to work politically for independence from British rule. He suggests, as in all good satire, a realistic list of alternative solutions to Ireland's problems of poverty and neglect:

 ..Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury;  Of curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women:  Of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance:  Of learning to love our country,....Of quitting our animosities and factions, nor acting any longer like those who were murdering one another at the very moment their city was taken:  Of being a little cautious not to sell our country and consciences for nothing;...Lastly, of putting a spirit of honesty, industry, and skill into our shop-keepers,...

Finally, with the closing statement, Swift offers a harsh criticism of the ethic of convenience and personal gain that rules Ireland as the proposer disclaims any personal interest in his suggestions, having "no other motive than the publick good of my country."

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