A Modest Proposal Questions and Answers
by Jonathan Swift

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Who was Jonathan Swift's audience in A Modest Proposal?  

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The elevated style of A Modest Proposal—a parody of scientific papers presented to the Royal Society—indicates that Swift's audience consists of men much like himself: learned, intelligent, politically conscious. In order for a parody to work it has to be possible to identify what exactly is being parodied. And so Swift's intended audience will have had some familiarity with the kind of scientific proposals which A Modest Proposal satirizes.

They would also have needed to have a fairly good knowledge of contemporary Irish politics, in particular the exploitative relationship between Ireland and her British colonial overlords. In writing the Proposal, Swift wanted to draw attention, in his own unique way, to the general contempt that the British political establishment had for Ireland and its people, especially the Catholic majority, who labored under numerous civil disabilities.

Most of Ireland's Catholic population lived in conditions of quite unimaginable squalor, and Swift and others...

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A Modest Proposal was written for Swift's usual audience - the literate and learned of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

There is a widespread assumption that his target was the English people, but they were neither the target of his satire nor his intended audience.

The proposal was partly an attack on the attitudes of the Irish, both Roman Catholic and of the Established Church - for their neglect of the poor. But mostly against the new-fangled economic ideas that everything could be corporatised and monetarised. Ironically modern, in a way.

The proposal was ostensibly designed to reduce poverty, increase the national wealth of Ireland, and prevent "voluntary abortions, and that horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children". Ultimately to convert unwanted children from being a burden on the country to being a economic asset, contributing to the feeding and the clothing of the kingdom. In other words he is taken economics to its logical, but absurd, conclusion.