A Modest Proposal Questions and Answers
by Jonathan Swift

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What are three examples of irony in "A Modest Proposal"?

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There are several forms of irony, but the kind most frequently employed by Jonathan Swift in this work is verbal irony. Verbal irony is when someone says something which is the opposite of what they mean or which is obviously sarcastic.

Swift uses this type of irony right from the opening of this piece of work, which is a classic piece of ironic writing. His title, "A Modest Proposal," is openly ironic: what he is proposing is in fact an outrageous and extreme scheme, and the narrator's suggestion that it is "modest" is a clear example of irony.

There are other examples of irony throughout the piece. For example, Swift refers to begging as a "lawful occupation," which it clearly is not—he is here highlighting the fact that the state of poverty of mothers in Ireland had become so extreme that begging had become viewed as something normal and commonplace. Later, Swift notes that an American has told him that a young child is a delicious "wholesome food," however it might be prepared. The...

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“A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift is classified as a satirical text that primarily utilizes irony to make a statement and thematically address the core values of its content. We see many examples of irony throughout the text- verbal and situational- and Jonathan Swift successfully implements these literary techniques to bring awareness to the very serious social and political events of his time that he believed required change.

The title itself is an example of verbal irony, because the proposal that Swift suggests- resorting to cannibalism and eating babies- is anything from modest and logical. Swift begins by depicting a realistic picture of Ireland at the time and invites the reader to visualize the severity of the situation. “It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads, and cabin doors, crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags and importuning every passenger for an palms.” While this picture initially seems to be realistic, Swift’s “solutions” and advantages to his plan force the reader to evaluate more humane and rational solutions. This literary technique can be classified as situational irony, because Swift is proposing very inhumane actions be taken that no ordinary person would normally intend to execute. We are made to believe that Swift cares about the well-being of the people, but the situational irony in his proposal sacrifices their very existence and if taken seriously, would only bring about more extreme poverty issues in the country.

We further see verbal irony being implemented with the suggestion that babies be eaten and carcasses used to benefit the upper class. This is simply contradictory to the efforts of solving the poverty issue, but to only increase the wealth and serve the interests of the rich.