What does the persona in "A Modest Proposal" say that the absentee landlords have done to harm their tenants?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Considered a work of incomparable brillance, "A Modest Proposal" is a satire that exudes a surface tone of rationality that only momentarily hides an undertone of bitter criticism. At times hyperbolic, Swift's essay. nevertheless, exemplifies superlative rhetoric. In his much less than "modest" argument that the Irish should begin eating their young children, Swift makes detailed computations, figuring the cost and weight of these children. He explains that the tender babe will be costly, or "dear" as this is expressed by the British. However, this exorbitance is befitting for a landlord, whose rents are equally as exorbitant:

I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for Landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the Parents, seem to have the best Title to the Children.

Since the wealthy Irish landlords have already virtually "devoured" many of the adults, Swift indicates that they have already acquired a taste for the poorer people, and there is no need for them to discontinue consuming them. With his biting sarcasm, Jonathan Swift voices his protest against the cruel exploitation of Irish landlords.

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A Modest Proposal

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