Paper on Jonathan Swift

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Jonathan Swift

A Hardly "Modest" Proposal
Jonathan Swift is regarded as one of the most famous satirical authors in history. He uses
his wit, intellect and unfortunate past as tools for projecting his words in an attempt to
baffle the unknowing. He achieves this by making humorous and farfetched situations that
really resemble the ridiculous things people do. In "A Modest Proposal," Swift addresses
his feelings of England's outlandish behavior towards the "less fortunate." Swift is
trying to help the English people realize the double standards they pass on the Irish and
on people in general. The sole purpose of "A Modest Proposal" is to let it be known that
we do not treat others equally and that humans easily become desensitized and emotionless.

In "A Modest Proposal" Jonathan Swift exposes the plight of the Irish peasants and
children through the use of a narrator. He (the narrator) proposes an outrageous but
"fair, cheap, and easy method of making these children sound and useful members of the
commonwealth…" (Swift 41). The Narrator, like many other people of his nature, is tired
of seeing an overwhelming number of children, beggars and homeless people take up space.
As a just solution to this problem he proposes that the children be eaten stating "that a
young healthy child well nursed is at a year old most delicious, nourishing and wholesome
food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled…" (Swift 42). Upon making this statement
the reader is shocked at the audacity that the storyteller posses to even fathom an idea
of this caliber. The suggested answer is all but human. It is only natural to assume that
he is being ridiculous, but as the reader continues on, the narrator only seems to become
more adamant about his idea. It is at this point that Swift's satire has reached its
pinnacle. One cannot help but think of how they would never consider the thought of
consuming another human. However, the self indulged human characteristics come out and the
reader is aware of how they treat the other people. The reader starts to analyze their own
actions towards fellow man letting them become exposed for all the ways they have
seemingly overlooked the poor and paid little to no attention of anyone one who is "less
fortunate." This can also translated into the way the English treat the Irish, which is
what Swift is trying to convey. While this proposal may seem atrocious, the actual act of
being eaten was simply a parallel to how the Irish were being treated. The English people
"gobbled" them up by over taxation, over indulging and lifting their (the English
people's) standards to the point where the Irish had such a lower standard of life that
"being eaten" seemed like a much better way to live. This is all irony that the reader may
not notice until they exam their own life.

Swift's narrator "modestly" speaks of England relationship with Ireland by stating "But as
to myself, having been wearied out for many years with offering in vain, idle, visionary
thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success, I fortunately fell upon this
proposal, which as it is wholly new, so it hath something solid and real, of no expense
and little trouble, full in our own power, and whereby we can incur no danger in obliging
England. For this kind of commodity will not bear exportation, the flesh being of too
tender a consistence to admit along continuance in salt, although perhaps I could name a
country which would be glad to eat up our whole nation without it." (Swift 44). The
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