In what sense is the proposal "modest" in Jonathan Swift's "Modest Proposal"?
There is little to add the excellent response above. Indeed, how can the "modest proposal" that the British eat Irish babies since they are killing them in other ways show regard for the decencies of behavior, which is the real meaning of modest in this context?
Keep in mind that satire is writing that ridicules or holds up to contempt the faults of individuals or of group with the hope that this ridicule will induce change and improvement. A champion of the Irish cause, Swift has as his aim to shock the British into realizing that their scandulous economic and social policies have wrought the starvation and death of many Irish: Since the British are eating up the Irish indirectly, why not directly?
- A good satirist often disguises the key point of an essay and Swift is no exception. After outlining aspects of his proposal, he makes an effective appeal to reason: "After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion as to reject any offer proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap, easy, and effectual" . Using the tone of high-minded satire to the very end, Swift concludes with a short paragraph recusing himself from personal gain were his proposal to be enacted.