Gallows Humor In A Modest Proposal By Jonathan Swift
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Gallows humor is defined as a “ type of humor that makes fun of a life-threatening, disastrous, or terrifying situation” (Merriam-Webster n.d.). One can certainly understand why gallows humor might be deemed as insensitive, inconsiderate, and, in some cases, unamusing. In fact, to make a jest of a dire or hopeless situation is, in most cultures, seen as a sign of someone’s bad character and their tasteless sense of humor. Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” exemplifies the cruelty and horridness of this so-called humor. Published in 1779, “A Modest Proposal” proffers the satirical solution to Ireland’s growing population of families in poverty. Its tongue-in-cheek suggestion is for poor mothers to sell their one year-old children for their meat to the wealthy. Therefore, both parties benefit; the lower class is paid a handsome amount per pound of their baby, and the higher class is supplied the delicacy of baby flesh.
While all readers can agree Jonathan Swift’s recommendation is not meant to be taken seriously, there is a separation in opinion when asking whether Swift’s satire is too absurd and offensive or is effective in making his point. Through intense, deep consideration, extensive research, and experts’ opinions, most readers can discern that Dr. Swift’s satire is the former.
Thus, Jonathan Swift’s application of satire is simply too absurd and offensive for most readers. There are three main reasons for this: it makes a joke of a serious situation,