A Modest Proposal Introduction
by Jonathan Swift

A Modest Proposal book cover
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So you’re going to teach “A Modest Proposal.” Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, this classic text has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations for its social impact and cutting satire. While it has its problematic spots, teaching this text to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. It will give them unique insight into expository and persuasive writing as well as the power of political satire on social issues. This guide highlights the text's most salient aspects to keep in mind before you begin teaching.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Publication Date: 1729 
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level: 13 
  • Approximate Word Count: 3,400 
  • Author: Jonathan Swift 
  • Country of Origin: United Kingdom 
  • Genre: Satire 
  • Literary Period: Augustan Literature, Enlightenment 
  • Conflict: Person vs. Society 
  • Structure: Persuasive Essay 
  • Tone: Academic, Deadpan

Texts That Go Well With “A Modest Proposal”

Babbitt is a 1922 novel by Sinclair Lewis. Rather than paralleling Swift’s mockery of upper-class landowners, Babbitt lampoons the growing middle class, whom he sees as striving after conformity and material success rather than the genuine happiness found in individuality. As a full-length novel, Babbitt is significantly longer than “A Modest Proposal,” but it is able to form an extended, nuanced critique of many aspects of American consumerism and materialism. 

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is a novel that satirizes progress for its own sake, the increased mechanization of human beings, and the propensity to avoid unpleasant experiences. This text is longer and more dramatic than “A Modest Proposal” but offers some of the same dark humor and cynical critique of government figures. 

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller is a novel that satirizes government bureaucracy and the romanticization of war. Starring a group of military pilots and personnel, Heller’s characters face hellish...

(The entire section is 476 words.)