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Synopsis[ edit ] This essay is widely held to be one of the greatest examples of sustained irony in the history of the English language. Much of its shock value derives from the fact that the first portion of the essay describes the plight of starving beggars in Ireland, so that the reader is unprepared for the surprise of Swift's solution when he states: He uses methods of argument throughout his essay which lampoon the then-influential William Petty and the social engineering popular among followers of Francis Bacon.
These lampoons include appealing to the authority of "a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London" and "the famous Psalmanazara native of the island Formosa " who had already confessed to not being from Formosa in In the tradition of Roman satire, Swift introduces the reforms he is actually suggesting by paralipsis: Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: Of taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound: Of using neither clothes, nor household furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture: Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury: Of curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women: Of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance: Of learning to love our country, wherein we differ even from Laplandersand the inhabitants of Topinamboo: Of quitting our animosities and factions, nor acting any longer like the Jews, who were murdering one another at the very moment their city was taken: Of being a little cautious not to sell our country and consciences for nothing: Of teaching landlords to have at least one degree of mercy towards their tenants.
Lastly, of putting a spirit of honesty, industry, and skill into our shop-keepers, who, if a resolution could now be taken to buy only our native goods, would immediately unite to cheat and exact upon us in the price, the measure, and the goodness, nor could ever yet be brought to make one fair proposal of just dealing, though often and earnestly invited to it.
Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like expedients, 'till he hath at least some glympse of hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice. Population solutions[ edit ] George Wittkowsky argued that Swift's main target in A Modest Proposal was not the conditions in Ireland, but rather the can-do spirit of the times that led people to devise a number of illogical schemes that would purportedly solve social and economic ills.
A Modest Proposal also targets the calculating way people perceived the poor in designing their projects. The pamphlet targets reformers who "regard people as commodities".
Critics differ about Swift's intentions in using this faux-mathematical philosophy. Edmund Wilson argues that statistically "the logic of the 'Modest proposal' can be compared with defence of crime arrogated to Marx in which he argues that crime takes care of the superfluous population". Smith argues that Swift's rhetorical style persuades the reader to detest the speaker and pity the Irish.
Swift's specific strategy is twofold, using a "trap"  to create sympathy for the Irish and a dislike of the narrator who, in the span of one sentence, "details vividly and with rhetorical emphasis the grinding poverty" but feels emotion solely for members of his own class.
Lewis argues that the speaker uses "the vocabulary of animal husbandry"  to describe the Irish. Once the children have been commodified, Swift's rhetoric can easily turn "people into animals, then meat, and from meat, logically, into tonnage worth a price per pound".
In making his argument, the speaker uses the conventional, textbook-approved order of argument from Swift's time which was derived from the Latin rhetorician Quintilian.
James William Johnson believes that Swift saw major similarities between the two situations. Baker points out the similarity between both authors' tones and use of irony. Baker notes the uncanny way that both authors imply an ironic "justification by ownership" over the subject of sacrificing children—Tertullian while attacking pagan parents, and Swift while attacking the English mistreatment of the Irish poor.Note: Jonathan Swift (), author and satirist, famous for Gulliver's Travels () and A Modest Proposal ().
This proposal, where he suggests that the Irish eat their own children, is one of his most drastic pieces. He devoted much of his writing to the struggle for Ireland against the English hegemony.
In this satirical essay, Swift offers up one solution to Ireland's devastating food shortage: eating babies.
The full title of the essay, originally published as a pamphlet, is "A Modest Proposal. Swift’s decision to put off the actual suggestion of eating babies until several paragraphs into the piece makes his idea all the more arresting when it does come.
Also, naming population decrease as the one potential objection to his proposal, Swift heightens the irony of an already ironic piece. Note: Jonathan Swift (), author and satirist, famous for Gulliver's Travels () and A Modest Proposal ().
This proposal, where he suggests that the . A Modest Proposal and Other Satires study guide contains a biography of Jonathan Swift, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. by Dr. Jonathan Swift It is a melancholy object to those, who walk through this great town, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads and cabbin-doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for an alms.