Essay: Modest Proposal Literature Is a Window

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Modest Proposal

Literature is a window into the society of Jonathon Swift's time in which created he created "A Modest Proposal." It mirrors English society and addresses the concerns of the day with regard to the social problems of poverty, hunger and the blindness to those issues of inequality in English society. The piece reflects those problems and comments upon them as explained in the essay below regarding the deficiencies in English society with regard to the social values or customs of relating to the poor and their needs in the industrializing society of the U.K. Of the time.

In Jonathan Swift's essay, the author proposes that the poor in a cynical bent that the poor should eat or sell their own starving children to the rich during a the great potato famine in Ireland. Obviously, the key factor in Jonathon Swift's essay is that the reader must recognize that he is not literally suggesting the poor to cannibalize. Rather, he is acknowledging the fact of the scarcity of food and therefore empathizes with the struggling and famished souls in the country of Ireland.

Economic inequality was a main concern of Jonathon Swift's as he expressed this concern satirically in his piece. The title of his essay itself hints at the economic inequality. His proposal applies itself to "the poor people of Ireland." The children that will be "eaten" are poor children. Specifically, poor children will subsequently be bought and eaten by the rich. This is only right, says the Swift, because the rich people have already consumed their own parents economically. He therefore is making the very point that the economic exploitation is like the actual consumption. Here, the rich feed off of the poor literally.

If Jonathon Swift had really written serious pieces and simply espousing his true beliefs, he would have probably gotten little response since there were so many such pamphlets that were circulating at the time. It was difficult enough to write a lasting piece in any genre, and at least people like to criticize and they like to laugh. A leading satirical parody like this one (and a shocking one in particular) was very likely to get the public at that time to pay attention in ways that a very seriously written piece could not possible achieve. Therefore, "A Modest Proposal" at that time surprised people and then got them thinking about the condition of the poor people in Ireland and what should be done about it. Then, when very sensitive subjects are involved, it is much safer to be subtle and hard to read and to be seen as joking rather than directly challenging the central authority.

If the reader still thinks that "A Modest Proposal" is a serious piece by this point, the "main objection" part of the essay ought to persuade the reader that it is not. Swift says that the main objection to the killing and eating of the children and young is that it will decrease the surplus population.

Again, Jonathon Swift engages in subterfuge and subtly so that he does not get into trouble. A truly serious objection from any normal human being know that it is morally wrong to consume human flesh on such a very large scale. Additionally, "A Modest Proposal" is a straw-man objection. He reminds the reader that by the reduction of the population is the overall goal of his essay anyway. Taking up the very real objections that would distract the reader by the introduction of a level of seriousness that the knowledgeable reader already knows about how to reply. Besides all of this, Jonathon Swift introduces very indirectly a good objection. There are better ways to fix the problem. The narrator even lists a lot of ideas while he is saying that he is not interested to consider them. The effectiveness of Jonathon Swift's piece comes in because in large measure the reader becomes engaged in the thinking about the real problem and real solutions.

Jonathon Swift goes to very great lengths to support his argument and to maintain the ruse, including the a list of possible preparation styles for the children and the calculations showing the financial benefits of his suggestion. This essay is widely held to be one of the greatest examples of sustained irony in the history of the English language. The entirety of "A Modest Proposal" is satirical because it makes fun of other grand ideas that people have proposed to solve big problems in society.

2.

The proposal itself (that the Irish should eat their babies) is satirical because it makes fun of people who propose absurd things thinking that they are practical. Jonathon Swift's reference to boys and girls as not a "saleable commodity" is a good particularly good example of social criticism because it goes on to suggest the cold thinking of people who go on to argue for turning everything into the questions of economics. In this way the purpose of the essay is satirical as well as its methodology.

A similar theme comes out when the author says that the people may use the carcass of an infant for a ladies' gloves or men's boots. Obviously, this uses an exaggeration method. This approach treats children as animals where the whole beast is used for different purposes. The narrator's friend is a "very worthy person" who proposes that children of fourteen should also be consumed. The honest assessment of this particular idea is that it is satirical along the same lines. For instance, the taste is what really matters and this would limit the potential number of breeders. As to the final declaration, he has nothing to gain economically from his proposal and he satirizes the usual common protestations of people who claim to be altruistic in all of their proposals.

The proposal by Jonathon Swift takes upon itself the theme of combating religious prejudice by the method of allusion with the author's assurance that his satirical proposal that Ireland eat its young will therefore decrease the number of "papists" (that is, Roman Catholics). Jonathon Swift assumes the narrative voice of a bigoted English Protestant who claims that the Irish Catholics are England's "dangerous enemies." Jonathon Swift therefore exposes the stereotype that Catholics have many children by having his narrator call them the "chief breeders of the nation."

If readers knew from the very beginning that "A Modest Proposal" was written by an accomplished satirist. This is obviously based upon irony combined with satire in one package to deliver a sharp social commentary. They would therefore be looking for the joke from the very beginning and would not be taken in at all. The proposed solution for the poverty in Ireland might have been believed for just long enough to make readers appreciate the deeper level of satire against cold and calculating arguments that miss the elements of basic humanity. Assuming the guise of a fake, anonymous narrator allowed him to better parody the prejudices that someone like his narrator might have.

The Jonathon Swift essay therefore mocks the idea that the society's ills can simply be cured by such simple calculations. The piece is completely full of numbers, including the number of people in the entire country, the number of poor couples, the number of couples, the number of children born into poor families and so on. Jonathon Swift conducts the mathematics with such numbers in his written proposal. For example, he subtracts, the number of deaths or miscarriages by disease or disease from the total number of children that were born per year. By transforming a tragic thing such as the death of children into a simple math problem. Therefore, the author Swift is mocking the then prevalent tendency in the 19th century to view such social questions dispassionately in terms of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Modest Proposal Literature Is a Window."  Essaytown.com.  March 19, 2012.  Accessed July 21, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/modest-proposal-literature-window/7570144.