A Modest Proposal 1729 Cover. Swift suggested that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies. His work encouraged positive development for those that suffered from famishment and financial maladies, and urged the aristocratic landlords to lower their taxes, so as to not further starve the country of its food and coin. The primary target of Swift’s satire was the rationalism of modern economics, and the growth of rationalistic modes of thinking in modern life at the expense of more traditional fast food solution essay values.
In English writing, the phrase “a modest proposal” is now conventionally an allusion to this style of straight-faced satire. Swift goes to great lengths to support his argument, including a list of possible preparation styles for the children, and 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. 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.
To ensure the success of his work, Swift employed several literary techniques that would prove extremely effective to his audience. To name his satire a “modest” proposal can be considered outrageous, as the subject content was purposely written with grotesque wordage. Perhaps the most obvious of literary techniques, it intrigued and baffled his readers. Hyperbole is often used to evoke humor, but in this instance, it was used to make a point with strong language. Erasing the humanity of infants and referring to them as “carcasses, flesh, and meat” instead of “innocence” or “youth” efficiently defeated their significance to future generations.
Juxtaposition – a technique used to bring together two elements at odds with another – was implemented in Swift’s subject matter when he combined the dire situation in Ireland with his outlandish solution. 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. Swift was especially insulted by projects that tried to fix population and labour issues with a simple cure-all solution. The pamphlet targets reformers who “regard people as commodities”.
Critics differ about Swift’s intentions in using this faux-mathematical philosophy. Wittkowsky counters that Swift’s satiric use of statistical analysis is an effort to enhance his satire that “springs from a spirit of bitter mockery, not from the delight in calculations for their own sake”. Smith argues that Swift’s rhetorical style persuades the reader to detest the speaker and pity the Irish. 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. Swift’s use of gripping details of poverty and his narrator’s cool approach towards them create “two opposing points of view” that “alienate the reader, perhaps unconsciously, from a narrator who can view with ‘melancholy’ detachment a subject that Swift has directed us, rhetorically, to see in a much less detached way. Swift has his proposer further degrade the Irish by using language ordinarily reserved for animals.
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”. Swift uses the proposer’s serious tone to highlight the absurdity of his proposal. The contrast between the “careful control against the almost inconceivable perversion of his scheme” and “the ridiculousness of the proposal” create a situation in which the reader has “to consider just what perverted values and assumptions would allow such a diligent, thoughtful, and conventional man to propose so perverse a plan”. James William Johnson believes that Swift saw major similarities between the two situations. In structure, Johnson points out the same central theme, that of cannibalism and the eating of babies as well as the same final argument, that “human depravity is such that men will attempt to justify their own cruelty by accusing their victims of being lower than human. Stylistically, Swift and Tertullian share the same command of sarcasm and language. In agreement with Johnson, Donald C.
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. Be it then as Sir Robert says, that Anciently, it was usual for Men to sell and Castrate their Children. Robert Phiddian’s article “Have you eaten yet? Swift and the voice of the Proposer. Phiddian stresses that a reader of the pamphlet must learn to distinguish between the satiric voice of Jonathan Swift and the apparent economic projections of the Proposer.
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