A Modest Proposal and Other Satires

A Modest Proposal

To prepare for our discussion of Swift, print out the approx. 6 page “A Modest Proposal” from our web page, and consider the following questions as you read and analyze Swift’s rhetoric (i.e., persuasive writing strategies).

1. “A Modest Proposal” is an ironic essay: the author deliberately writes what he does not mean. What is the real thesis? Is there more than one?

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There are a few themes that you might consider. One major one is economic injustice. Swift's persona highlights the economic inequality in Ireland and England with “A Modest Proposal.” In the beginning of the essay, he expresses great sympathy for the beggars of Ireland, describing their destitution in detail. His solution of eating babies applies primarily to the babies of the poor; the title of the piece states that this is a proposal for making the “children of poor people” ultimately “beneficial to the public.” The writer suggests that the landlords ought to eat the babies, as they have already “devoured” their parents. The writer here is implying that the rich metaphorically “devour” the poor, achieving success largely at the expense of the lower classes. The writer states in his final paragraph that his intention is not only to “relieve the poor” but also to “give pleasure to the rich.” Swift’s other satires, too, mock the rich. “An Argument Against the Abolishing of Christianity,” for example, is narrated by a somewhat foppish narrator in order to expose the frivolities of the wealthy.

You can check out more themes at the GradeSaver link below: