Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal

949 WordsJul 12, 20184 Pages
“A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift takes place in Dublin Ireland in the 18th century. The narrator is a very ironic character. His “modest” proposal is anything but modest. This short story takes place during a famine. Since there was a famine, Swift proposes the idea that people sell their one year old children to the rich so they would not be a burden to their family. One important way in which the author engages the audience’s attention and tries to help his readers see deeper political, moral, and social truths and problems is through his use of irony. “A Modest Proposal” is a satire that is aimed at helping Swift’s contemporary readers to recognize how cold and calculating blunt rationalism is when used to address social…show more content…
(Samar Nattagh “A Modest Proposal and the Irish potato famine”) Swift talks about walking through the street and as you are walking kids are pouring out of the woodwork. The children are everywhere. “They are packed in the roads and peering out of cabins” (Shmoop Editorial Team “A Modest Proposal Analysis”). Many Irish could not find jobs to support their children; therefore they spent all their time walking the streets to beg from others. The children grew up to be thieves. Every year there were several hundred thousand babies born including about 120,000 who had to be supported by poor parents (Cummings “A Modest Proposal Study Guide”). Symbolism is used throughout this short story. The narrator suggests that children be used as food. The English were not cannibals. The use of children as a symbol of food represents them being something of value. The narrator thinks the children are in a cycle of poverty where the parents are poor and therefore the children are poor and useless. “His only offering is that the children be put to use. Shockingly, the “use” these children are designated for is food…yes, that means that they would be eaten” (Smith “Irony and Social Critique in “A Modest Proposal”). Children are not to be treated as objects just like the poor are not lesser people. Swift’s story suggests that if the children were eaten the population and poverty problems would be solved (Smith “Irony and Social Critique in “A Modest Proposal”).
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