An Analysis Of Jonathan Swift Essay

This essay has a total of 2370 words and 9 pages.

An Analysis Of Jonathan Swift


Rhetoric 1b
10/22/1999

An Analysis of Jonathan Swift and Martin Luther King Jr.'s Stylistic Devices
In a satirical essay, Swift uses Rogerian strategy along with other rhetorical tactics
such as specific diction, nuclear emphasis, and multiple double meanings to effectively
surface the horrific treatment of the Irish by the English aristocracy. Rogerian strategy
focuses on the "open exchange of ideas directed toward mutual understanding" with emphasis
on conceding certain points to gain an understanding of the opposition and in doing so
gain ground rather than losing it through a hostile exchange of right and wrong
(Cooper/Patton 70). Swift carefully organized his essay so the audience, the English
Aristocracy, would not recognize it as satire and dismiss it right away. Swift begins with
a quasi-believable tone, one of an economist trying to solve a problem. The current
"deplorable state of the kingdom" calculated by Swift consists of one hundred twenty
thousand children who need to steel and beg just to remain alive (Swift 298). Many before
him tried to provide useful solutions but failed. The Irish now left with nothing but what
the English give them suffer mass oppression, the real issue Swift wishes to address.

Swift establishes a mutual understanding with the English from the beginning, an essential
part of the careful construction in his essay. He cannot let on the essay will take a
dramatic turn after the flip of the second page. Swift does this because he wants to give
the impression that he shares the same views on the current condition of the kingdom. He
wants the English aristocracy to identify with him and his views. When he states " I think
it is agreed by all parties…" in the second paragraph and in the fourth "As to my own
part…maturely weighed the several schemes of other projectors but have found them
grossly mistaken in their computation" Swifts uses a small bit of Rogerian strategy (Swift
298). First he agrees with them on a small point so they are not hostile when later he
states their past proposals have miscalculations. This bit of Rogerian serves the purpose
of warming up the audience so they get used to agreeing with Swift and having an open mind
to new suggestions much like an opening act does for the nights main act. Swift continues
to warm up the audience by recognizing that these children are "a charge upon their
parents" but more importantly to the English "a charge upon…the parish." All the
"warming up" takes place within the first two pages, an essential part to the
effectiveness of Swift's strategy (Swift 298-90). As Swift offers his "Modest Proposal" we
see how ridiculous it is to even fathom eating children but even worse making money off of
it. But we still cannot characterize the essay as satirical because he has made no
reference to change or exaggeration, the essential ingredients in determining if an essay
is satirical. Swifts continues to employ Rogerian tactics to give the appearance of still
being on the side of the English aristocracy.

Swift specifically points out the fact that "the number of popish infants is at least
three to one" and an advantage of his still serious proposal "will be the lessening of
Papist among us" (Swift 300). Swift reduces the population from general to a specific
religious affiliation and the use of the pronoun "us" still puts Swift on the English
side. Now that Swift has established a mutual understanding he moves to make a suggestion.
After stating his computation of nursing a beggar's child and the amount a "gentlemen"
would pay for this child he states "the squire will learn to be a good landlord, and grow
popular among the tenants" (Swift 300). Swift subtly suggests up to this point the squires
are not good landlords and not favored among tenants. According to the Rogerian strategy,
if Swift were to come right out and say this without the use of concessions the English
would have a more hostile attitude, but instead are more apt to consider his point. This
marks Swift's first attempt at bringing out a larger issue; the treatment of the tenants
by the English aristocracy.

Throughout the essay Swift chooses certain words in specific situations to magnify his
underlying intentions. In the phrase we see at the beginning of the essay "deplorable
state of the kingdom" the decision to use deplorable is key to the essay. Deplorable means
expressing disapproval of (Swift 298). Swift easily could have chosen a different word,
but he specifically chose deplorable because it provides the phrase with double meaning.
At the beginning, when Swift sides with the English and their views; the burden put on
society by the disgusting number of beggars with children that creep around town bothering
every person for alms. But as the essay unfolds we see the phrase really refers to Swift's
stance along side the Irish. Together they see the state as "deplorable" because it is the
English oppressing the Irish. Ironic because the English Swifts addresses live in Ireland
yet think it is somehow their town. Swift has a specific reason for using the word
"gentlemen" in the paragraph fourteen. "I believe no gentlemen would repine to give ten
shillings…" says Swift in attempt to appeal to the English's' tendency to see themselves
as proper and gentleman like (Swift 300). Double meaning comes back into play when we
reach the twentieth paragraph.

Paragraph twenty, small in size but large in meaning, marks a major turning point in the
essay. Swift carefully says "I have too long digressed, and therefore shall return to my
subject" (Swift 302). The second double meaning of the essay comes with the word choice of
digressed. To digress means to wander from the main theme according to Webster's
Dictionary. To the English aristocracy this means he has wandered to far from his
proposal. The second refers to underlying meaning that has yet to fully surface. Swift
touched on it ever so slightly earlier in the passage when he suggested the landlords
could learn to become better. He also alluded to the treatment of the Irish when he said
"this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for the landlords, who, as
they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the
children" (300). When Swift says devoured he means because the English have such control
over the Irish and have used this control to oppress them so harshly they have literally
devoured them. Swift started to address this underlying issue but then "digressed" away
from it by getting too into justifying his friends credibility. He uses this specific word
to signal the emergence of the real issue at hand, the oppression suffered by the Irish at
the hand of the English aristocracy. Make no mistake; Swift does not abandon his original
Continues for 5 more pages >>