A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

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What literary devices does Jonathan Swift use in "A Modest Proposal"?

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Swift uses imagery, which is to convey a picture using the five senses. In the opening paragraphs, the narrator paints a pathetic scene meant to arouse our emotions in sympathy for poor, starving Irish mothers, with their starving children hanging on to the ends of the mothers' ragged clothing. Rousing our emotions is called pathos, and by describing the urgent condition of the poor so that we feel their plight with our hearts, the narrator makes us anxious to hear his "modest proposal" to solve the problem.

The essay is a famous example of irony, or saying the opposite of what you actually mean. Swift wants us to react with horror to the proposal to kill and eat babies to solve the problems of the poor. The proposal is anything but modest, and Swift hoped to use the shock value of this proposal to galvanize people to adopt a more humane solution.

Swift also has his clueless narrator adopt a deadpan style. The rational style of writing in the second part is an antithesis to the horrfying...

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