Irony is continually present in A Modest Proposal, not least in the title since, if intended seriously, Swift’s proposal would be far from modest but very radical indeed. He writes that his idea would prevent “that horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children ... which would move tears and pity in the most savage and inhuman breast.”
Though the practice he describes is, in fact, horrid, the irony lies in his solution being even more appalling. This is a common feature of the essay, since there is no doubt that the real situation Swift describes is very dire and could be made the subject of a great deal of pathos without the monstrous solution he proposes.
Later in the essay, Swift say that some people “of a desponding spirit” are overly concerned about the poor “who are aged, diseased or maimed” and therefore unfit for human consumption. For this difficulty, he offers some ironic comfort, saying that no solution is necessary:
I am not in the least pain upon that...
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