What does Swift see as an alternative to his plan?

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poetrymfa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" is a satirical essay that suggest that the poor people of Ireland can find a solution for their financial issues through the sale of their children as food for the wealthy. In an act of apophasis (bringing up a subject by denying that it should be brought up) at the end of the essay, Swift mentions his actual desires for the treatment of the poor by pretending that they are alternatives to his child-eating plan and claiming that no man should speak of them. Swift outlines these "undesirable" alternatives (which, in reality, are reasonable solutions) as follows:

  • Place taxes of five shillings a pound on the "absentees" of Ireland
  • Buy and use locally produced clothing and furniture
  • Reject the attraction of foreign luxury
  • Instilling better morals in women by teaching them not to be pride, vain, idle, etc.
  • Instilling a sense of thriftiness and financial sense in the Irish people
  • Championing a sense of love for and pride in one's country
  • Ceasing all hostility and fighting¬†
  • Standing steadfast in the country's collective conscience
  • Promoting mercy for tenants in the hearts of landlords
  • Instilling integrity and industriousness in the shopkeepers of Ireland
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Towards the end of the essay, Swift acknowledges a few alternatives to his plan but he does not spend much time on them.  He thinks they are too ridiculous to try.

  • Tax people who live outside Ireland but own land there.
  • Don't use or buy anything that is not produced in Ireland itself.
  • Reject things that "promote foreign luxury."
  • Try to teach women to stop being proud, vain, and idle.
  • Instead, promote thrift among the people.
  • Stop fighting among themselves and learn to love their country.
  • Have landlords and storeowners and such stop being so greedy.
Read the study guide:
A Modest Proposal

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