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A Modest Proposal
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A Modest Proposal For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial tothe Public, commonly referred to as A Modest Proposal, is a Juvenalian satirical essay written and published anonymously by Jonathan Swift in 1729. Swift appears to suggest in his essay that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies. By doing this he mocks the authority of the British officials.
Contents[hide] * 1Details * 2 Population solutions * 3 Rhetoric * 4 Tertullian’s Apology * 5 Economic themes * 6 People are the riches of a nation * 7 Modern usage * 7.1 In popular culture * 8 Notes * 9 References * 10 External links |
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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. He uses common methods of argument throughout his essay, such as appealing to the authority of "a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London" and "the famousPsalmanazar, a native of the island Formosa" (who had already confessed to not being from Formosa in 1706). Swift couches his arguments in then-current events, exploiting common prejudice against Catholics (misnomed Papists) and pointing out their depredations of England. After enumerating the benefits of his proposal, Swift addresses possible objections, including the depopulation of Ireland and alitany of other solutions that he dismisses as impractical.
This essay is widely held to be one of the greatest examples of sustained irony in the history of the English language. Much of its shock value derives from the fact that the first portion of the essay describes the plight of starving beggars in Ireland, so that the reader is unprepared for the surprise of Swift's solution when hestates, "A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout."
Readers unacquainted with its reputation as a satirical work often do not immediately realize that Swift was not seriously proposing cannibalism and infanticide, nor wouldreaders unfamiliar with the satires of Horace and Juvenal recognize that Swift's essay follows the rules and structure of Latin satires.
The satirical element of the pamphlet is often only understood after the reader notes the allusions made by Swift to the attitudes of landlords, such as the following: "I grant this food may be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for Landlords, who as theyhave already devoured most of the Parents, seem to have the best Title to the Children." Swift extends the metaphor to get in a few jibes at England’s mistreatment of Ireland, noting that "For this kind of commodity will not bear exportation, and flesh being of too tender a consistence, to admit a long continuance in salt, although perhaps I could name a country, which would be glad to eat up ourwhole nation without it."
In the tradition of Roman satire, Swift introduces the reforms he is actually suggesting by deriding them:
Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: Of taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound: Of using neither clothes, nor household furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture: Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that...