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Swift's "A Modest Proposal"

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In his lengthy literary career, Jonathan Swift wrote many stories that

used a broad range of voices that were used to make some compelling

personal statements. For example, Swifts, A Modest Proposal, is often

heralded as his best use of both sarcasm and irony. Yet taking into

account the persona of Swift, as well as the period in which it was

written, one can prove that through that same use of sarcasm and irony,

this proposal is actually written to entertain the upper-class. Therefore

the true irony in this story lies not in the analyzation of minute details

in the story, but rather in the context of the story as it is written.

One of the voices that is present throughout the story is that of

irony. The story itself is ironic since no one can take Swifts proposal

seriously. This irony is clearly demonstrated at the end of the story;

Swift makes it clear that this proposal would not affect him since his

children were grown and his wife unable to have any more children. It

would be rather absurd to think that a rational man would want to both

propose this and partake in the eating of another human being. Therefore,

before an analyzation can continue, one has to make the assumption that

this is strictly a fictional work and Swift had no intention of pursuing

his proposal any further.

One of the other voices that is present throughout the entire

story is that of sarcasm. In order to understand this further, a reader

has to comprehend that Swift, becoming infamous after Gullivers Travels,

was a member of the upper-class. Right from the first paragraph Swift

attempts to fool his readers by the sarcasm of the dreary scene that Swift

presents. For example, he mentions that it is a melancholy sight to see

beggars and their children on the street. The sarcastic paradox in this

statement is whether it is a melancholy object for him, having to see

homeless people every day, or for the beggars lifestyle? Upon first

reading this one may be led to believe that Swift is a compassionate

writer attempting to feel the pain of the beggars. But as the story

continues, a reader can look back and note that he is using a sarcastic

tone and the only sad sight that he sees is the fact that people of his

status have to deal with commoners. It is a good combination that makes

the reader think twice about any other statements, and the voice used,

after the first paragraph.

This leads to the underlying statements that appear throughout the

story. It is quite clear that Swift has strong feelings of resentment,

bordering on hate, for the poor people that wonder the street. For

example, he tries to qualify his proposal by saying, "it is very well

known that they are dying, and rotting , by cold and famine, and filth,

and vermin . . . they cannot get work and consequently pine away for want

of nourish.". Once a reader understands this, they can see the true

purpose of his proposal. He wants to lower the population of beggars in

his country, so what better way to do it than by putting an end to the

younger generation of beggars? This is also proven since throughout the

story he only mentions that the upper-class of society would be able to

purchase the sacrificial children. The upper-class would also take the

carcasses and use them to, "make admirable gloves for ladies summer boots

for fine gentlemen.". Also, when he makes his calculations as to how

many children would be available for sale, he never takes into account the

children from the rich families. In short, Swifts message is that rich

children serve a purpose, the advancement of Ireland, while poor children

are nothing but a burden to the republic.

One other clear indication that Swift was motivated by his hatred

for the poor is the list of six reasons that he write to qualify his

proposal. In the third statement, Swift explains how by buying the

children and then selling them to their friends, the upper-class can keep

on thriving. This was a plan to get themselves even more rich, as Swift

states, "the money will circulate among ourselves, the goods being

entirely of our own growth and manufacture.". Secondly, he also compares

this type of meal to that of eating a pig. He elaborates by naming a

variety of ways that you can cook the child, use if for bacon, or to make

clothing.He never once mentions what the poor people can gain after they

have been paid the purchasing price. He only mentions the benefits of the

rich. Yet,Swift wants the writer to believe that he wasn't

attempting to bring



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