tablesetting complete with forks, knives, and spoons, and a baby on the plate in the center above the words "A Modest Proposal"

A Modest Proposal

by Jonathan Swift

Start Free Trial

In "A Modest Proposal," what contrasts and discrepancies does Swift highlight in paragraphs 9 and 10?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The contrasts and discrepancies that are at the heart of these two paragraphs are the actual thoughts and feelings of Swift, who was clearly opposed to the attitude of the British towards the Irish during the famine, and then the stance that he takes in this darkly ironic essay, where he proposes a "solution" to the problem that the Irish faced. Note how in paragraph 9, Swift presents his "modest" solution to the problem of the Irish famine, which is clearly intended to have significant shock value:

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie, or a ragoust.

It is clear from the long list of different ways in which a child can be prepared that Swift is using hyperbole to shock his readers into action. Swift makes himself sound as if he is a monster through the way he supposedly "humbly" discusses his terrible idea, and then presents Irish children as if they were nothing more than livestock to be killed and consumed in number of different appetising ways. He even goes as far as to state that a child should make two decent meals, and that various of its parts would make a good winter broth when boiled. The massive contrast and discrepancy in this text is therefore shown through Swift's intention of presenting himself as monstrous to expose the monstrous attitude of the British towards the Irish. They were leaving the Irish to starve without doing anything and without making simple changes that could alleviate the suffering of the Irish. Swift takes this shocking attitude and takes it to its logical extension, but only achieves this through presenting himself to be something that he is truly not: a monster who is capable of viewing Irish children as nothing more than a food source to be consumed and harvested.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial