A Modest Proposal Questions and Answers
by Jonathan Swift

A Modest Proposal book cover
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In his satirical pamphlet titled A Modest Proposal, what social problems does Jonathan Swift point out?

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In A Modest Proposal, Jonathan Swift addresses the widespread poverty within Ireland and the misery it has accrued. At the same time, he links this crisis with other social ills. In his very first paragraph, he makes a link between poverty and crime, for example, writing that these impoverished children may grow up to become thieves. Additionally, he writes about the possibility of them selling themselves into servitude or even entering the service of Spain. He speaks about how poverty pushes women to commit abortions and infanticides, and leaves them poorly equipped to provide for the children they have. Thus, Swift observes that poverty casts larger ripples across society and invites further social ills to propagate.

In addition, however, A Modest Proposal is concerned with the overall attitudes of the wealthy and elites toward poverty and the cold rationalism espoused by enlightenment era thinking (which Swift would condemn as lacking empathy and compassion).

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