A Modest Proposal and Other Satires

The Means of Persuasion in "A Modest Proposal" College

On the surface, Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” (1729) suggests that the most convenient method for dealing with the starving children of Ireland is to convert them into useful -- and edible -- members of society. His horrid proposal recommends “plumping” babies up until they reach the age of one, and then selling them as food for the rich. Swift then concludes that implementing this project will do more to solve Ireland’s social, economic, and political problems than any measure previously offered. Beneath the surface of the essay, it seems that Swift is venting his aggravation towards the Irish people for their inability to take action on their own. He is covertly claiming that the Irish must come up with a logical way to better their weak economic situation, so that the poor are not “eaten alive.” Throughout, Swift uses careful rhetoric in his writing to argue for his overt proposal. He effectively exploits the three rhetorical appeals known as pathos, logos, and ethos throughout the piece to make his bizarre idea seem convincing and logical.

These three persuasion tactics, also titled the “artistic proofs” by Aristotle, date back to ancient Greece and are used to convince and persuade an audience: all three are now...

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