tablesetting complete with forks, knives, and spoons, and a baby on the plate in the center above the words "A Modest Proposal"

A Modest Proposal

by Jonathan Swift

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What evidence does the Swift give to prove that he will not benefit from "A Modest Proposal"?

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Swift's narrator begins the essay by professing all of the myriad reasons that he believes his proposal to be a sound one: a plan that will benefit the country of Ireland and its people (with no mention of any potential benefit to himself). In this way, he deflects attention from himself. He portrays the plight of the poverty-ridden Irish as "melancholy" and appeals to his readers's feeling that the state of the kingdom is "deplorable" indeed. Both make him sound altruistic and unselfish. The speaker does, however, suggest that the person who

could find out a fair, cheap and easy method of making these children sound and useful members of the commonwealth, would deserve so well of the public, as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.

It is true that the narrator does claim at the end of the text that he will not benefit financially from his proposal—that he has not "the least personal interest in endeavoring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the public good of [his] country"—he does seem to hope that he will, at least, be recognized for his massive contribution to the country's welfare. After all, he states outright that a person who accomplishes what he claims his proposal will achieve will deserve a statue of himself, erected in his honor. Thus, while he does not stand to gain money, he does seem to hope to acquire something else: a nation's gratitude and admiration.

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In the conclusion to his "A Modest Proposal" Swift explains to the reader that he has no personal gain from his proposal.  He explains that he suggests it only because he wants to support his country and help the poor families living there.  He points out that in his own family his wife is past the age where she can have any more children, and his youngest (who is nine years old) is too old to be considered for Swift's proposal.  From this, the audience is to believe he isn't proposing the plan to make money for himself, but for his county.

I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal interest in endeavouring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the publick good of my country, by advancing our trade, providing for infants, relieving the poor, and giving some pleasure to the rich. I have no children, by which I can propose to get a single penny; the youngest being nine years old, and my wife past child-bearing.

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