A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

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Hyperbole In A Modest Proposal

Explain hyperbole and humor in "A Modest Proposal." How do hyperbole and humor further enhance the satiric impact of the essay?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Hyperbole is exaggeration. Swift, fed up with the rejection of his commonsense solutions to problems of poverty, creates a narrator who, in an exaggerated way, is only capable of seeing people in terms of profit.

Examples of hyperbole start with the narrator’s proposal to fatten, raise and butcher human babies, both to help the poor become self-supporting and to enrich Ireland. Swift mercilessly exaggerates the narrator’s unconscious tendency to dehumanize others. The narrator writes, for example: “I rather recommend buying the Children alive, and dressing them hot from the Knife, as we do roasting Pigs.” Such vivid, hyperbolic detail elevates the shock value of treating humans as commodities and illustrates that...

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jwallacefreelance | Student

In short, Swift doesn't want us to eat babies. He used the example as an extreme and dramatic overstatement to shed light on the severity of the potato famine. All these years later, it's worked and has become known as one of the greatest pieces of satire in history.