In "A Modest Proposal," what contrasts and discrepancies are at the heart of Swift's ironic statement in paragraphs 9 and 10? Explain both the subtley an savagery of the satire in paragraph 12. 

1 Answer | Add Yours

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The contrasts and discrepancies that are at the heart of these two paragraphs are the actual thoughts and feelings of Swift, who was clearly opposed to the attitude of the British towards the Irish during the famine, and then the stance that he takes in this darkly ironic essay, where he proposes a "solution" to the problem that the Irish faced. Note how in paragraph 9, Swift presents his "modest" solution to the problem of the Irish famine, which is clearly intended to have significant shock value:

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie, or a ragoust.

It is clear from the long list of different ways in which a child can be prepared that Swift is using hyperbole to shock his readers into action. Swift makes himself sound as if he is a monster through the way he supposedly "humbly" discusses his terrible idea, and then presents Irish children as if they were nothing more than livestock to be killed and consumed in number of different appetising ways. He even goes as far as to state that a child should make two decent meals, and that various of its parts would make a good winter broth when boiled. The massive contrast and discrepancy in this text is therefore shown through Swift's intention of presenting himself as monstrous to expose the monstrous attitude of the British towards the Irish. They were leaving the Irish to starve without doing anything and without making simple changes that could alleviate the suffering of the Irish. Swift takes this shocking attitude and takes it to its logical extension, but only achieves this through presenting himself to be something that he is truly not: a monster who is capable of viewing Irish children as nothing more than a food source to be consumed and harvested.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,989 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question