What is the rebuttal in "A Modest Proposal"?

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lusie0520 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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In “A Modest Proposal,” Swift is proposing that in order to solve the problem of starvation in his native land, they begin eating babies. He structures his essay in such a way that he defines the problem (poor women and their children, begging on the street), he makes a proposal (to begin eating babies), he then gives all the reasons we should eat babies and also lists some interesting ways to eat babies. He talks about which group will eat babies and how they should be cooked. After all this, he gives a refutation and addresses the problems people will have with his plan. One refutation has to do with his certainty that people will object because “the number of people will be thereby much lessened in the kingdom.” Swift says he knows this, and it was his chief reason for saying it. He then lists all the proposals he thinks people will make to him, such as: “of teaching landlords to have at least one degree of mercy towards their tenants,” and he says he does not want to hear about them unless people are prepared to actually act upon them. He also reminds them that it will be difficult to “find food and raiment for a hundred thousand,” and tells them to ask the poor whether they “would not at this day think it a great happiness to have been sold for food at a year old.” Swift’s main point is that there are starving women and children in Ireland, being ignored not only by the English government, but also by their own people.

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