A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

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In "A Modest Proposal," Swift lists several proposals that are based on common sense. Why does he refuse to discuss the alternatives?

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accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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It is vitally important to identify the satire and irony that runs throughout the entire essay that Swift wrote. The "other expedients" that Swift suggests and that I assume you are referring to are actually very sensible ideas and suggestions. In reality, Swift previously had championed every one of these measures, yet they were all ignored by the British government. Interestingly, these suggestions were italicised in all editions printed during Swift's lifetime to show that Swift made these proposals with sincerity rather than ironically.

However, by overtly pretending to dismiss such reasonable suggestions, Swift is highlighting the failure of the British government to do anything to alleviate the harsh penury of the Irish. He deliberately brushes aside these suggestions, just as Britain itself brushed them aside in the past. Of course, Swift is not being serious at all in this essay. Rather, his position is deliberately created to highlight the callous and unsensitive way in which Britain was treating the Irish famine.

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thetall eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Among Swift’s reasonable propositions include using locally manufactured products as opposed to imports and landlords showing the smallest amount of mercy towards their tenants. However, he refuses to discuss them further owing to the fact that for years he had brought forth the same proposals but none had been adopted. He had grown weary trying to advocate for their implementation when he came across his “modest proposal.” Swift further stated that no one should bother discussing the alternative proposals or others of the same nature because it would be further efforts in futility as those with the power to implement change were unwilling. He said, “Therefore I repeat, let no Man talk to me of these and the like Expedients, till he hath at least a Glimpse of Hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into Practice.”

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