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

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Swift's pamphlet addressed a few intended audiences: both the English who were buying up all the land in Ireland, and the Irish themselves.  By the time he wrote "A Modest Proposal," the wealthy English had purchased around 90% of the land in Ireland, raising the rents, making it more difficult for poor Irish farmers to both pay the rent for the land they worked and feed and clothe their families.  Irish families were also characteristically large, making the challenge of caring for them even greater; so the number of beggars increased.  English Parliament had even passed laws that limited the rights of the Irish in their own country.  Swift certainly means to attack the practices by which the English figuratively "devoured" the Irish by suggesting that they might as well go ahead and literally devour them too.

However, Swift also addressed the Irish who allowed such a situation to transpire without taking adequate steps to preserve themselves.  He thought they hadn't done enough to stand up to the English before it became too late.  In other words, he also blames the Irish for their seeming complicity with their own subjugation.

royalcourtier | Student

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.

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A Modest Proposal

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