A Modest Proposal

Swift’s use of satire and sarcasm in “A Modest Proposal” was excellent. He first brings up the notion of selling children for profit, then dismisses it as financially inefficient. This is an appalling concept, but one which actually happens in some parts of the world. The immorality of selling one’s own kin for financial gain is given no thought in Swift’s proposal. He then goes on to an even more barbaric option, that of cannibalizing children. He likens it to any other food commodity that people might produce and consume, explaining when it (infant flesh) is in and out of season, and even how it may be cooked.

Swift lays his argument out in a clear and concise way, and if you had no objections to the perverse nature of eating human children, it would be an infallible argument. Of course it is a completely ludicrous argument because eating one’s own children is about the most horrible thing imaginable. This absurdity is just used to illustrate the pressing nature of the Irish financial situation.

The bottom line of “A Modest Proposal” is simple: that a people in dire times will go to great lengths to find a solution. While Swift’s solution is hyperbolic, the point is that something effective needs to be done to improve their situation. His meaning is made clear in one of the last lines, a sort of call to action: “After all I am not so violently bent upon my own Opinion, as to reject any Offer, proposed by wise Men, which shall be found equally Innocent, Cheap, Easy and Effectual”.


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