In a "Modest Proposal," what does Swift suggest in his proposal (on the surface)?

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sarahc418 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Swift, on the surface, suggests that in order to combat poverty and famine in Ireland, the Irish should raise their children and sell them to the landlords of Ireland as food. It would feed the destitute or could be considered a delicacy for the wealthy. This proposal would help poverty and famine as well as control the overpopulation that was hurting Irish families.

He details what percentage of the population should be fed and at what age would be ideal for consumption. He goes on to say that of course a certain percentage must not be sold off in order to keep breeders available to raise the next generation of children for consumption.

Of course, below the surface, the irony of the title "A Modest Proposal" is quite obvious as this piece is not modest but rather frightening and horrifying. It is a satirical commentary that showcases the oppressive situation in Ireland.

thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jonathan Swift, at that time Dean of the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, wrote "A Modest Proposal" as a satirical response to the inefficacy of other schemes to ameliorate poverty and hunger in Ireland. He suggests that the poor should be allowed to sell their babies to be eaten. He makes the "proposal" seem realistic by suggesting possible recipes and commenting on the gastronomic virtues of the infants. He also suggestz that the Catholics, because of their poverty, will be more likely to sell babies than Protestants, and that this would also have the salutary effect pf reducing the Roman Catholic population and helping to convert the country to Protestantism.