A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

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A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

How Swift uses satire to express his true feelings of the situation in Ireland
Jonathan Swift, a well-known writer did many topics and used satire in his works to express his message. This was a technique he used to reach his audience and make sure the message reached the targeted group. In this research paper, we will focus at discussing one of the topics he did. Among the research topics done by the narrator include; how capitalism deals with its problems, criticizing Catholicism, how the sale of children meat will benefits lives of adults and how the sale of children meat will benefit the economy (Swift, 2016 p 203).

In all these, irony has been used to reach the audience. Jonathans main objective as shall be found in this essay, wanted to gauge the readers thinking capability and ability. He wants the audience to read his work and from it, reason out. He puts his work in a manner that requires intuitive reasoning and thinking. We shall analyze Jonathan Swifts use of satire to express his feelings for the people of Ireland considering the situation that was prevailing in the country.

Jonathan Swifts modest proposal aimed at drawing peoples attention world-wide and initiating the process on how the plight of Irish people could be helped out. Ireland was a country where there was widespread of poverty. Therefore, in order to fully capture the attention of his readers, he uses satire to motivate the readers to try and find out the plight of Irish people and come up with possible solutions. The essay portrays the writers feelings and attempts to lure them in having the same feeling for the situation in Ireland.

This has been achieved through irony. Irony is the way of expressing an idea through the opposite of what is actually happening (Doody, 2014 p 196). In irony, the writer position on a subject matter is not readily known by the readers. The readers are expected to go beyond this ordinary view and be able to read through the writers mind. Swift successfully employed this technique to pass his message by instilling sarcasm and humor in his audience. Through satire, the readers were able to get more interest on reading the Irelands situation. This then enabled them to follow up on the story until its conclusion.

Due to the nature of the issue, the writer had to hide his identity. The need for hiding ones identity while employing the use of irony is so as to make sure the readers do not take the narrations as a sense of humor. Jonathan was a protestant and had witnessed the kind of treatment the English colonists subjected the Irish people unto. Jonathan used satire to alert the public on how the English authorities practices brought suffering to the common people. The rich and the powerful applied practices which greatly undermined the common people. There was a lot of poverty in Ireland and Jonathan used irony to explain this situation.

In his article, one of the instances in which he successfully uses irony is that of eating babies by the colonists. Ireland was a poor nation and different schools of thought tried to connect this to the population (Marshal, 2015 p 134). It was believed that the country was overpopulated and therefore, the only solution to address poverty this poverty situation was to eat the babies he laments on how authorities resorted to eating babies in an attempt to solve the problem. Eating babies is a satirical theme the writer introduces, which basically refers to the act of selling babies by parents upon recommendations by the authorities. The babies were supposed to be sold in order to provide for their parents. In order to get money for food and other needs, the authorities recommended that the parents sell out their babies. So widespread was the practice that prompted Jonathan to publish the occurrence of such activities.

The practice of selling babies is what the writer means when he says authorities eating babies. The writer used this theme because he had already grown up children and his wife was not going to have more children who could be sold by the authorities (Swift, 2016 p 209). Therefore, he believes that this narration will not affect him and his family at any particular time. In other words, Jonathan portrays a situation of man-eat society in Ireland. The authorities were inhuman to the extent of suggesting the selling of children to solve the poverty situation in Ireland. This act touched Jonathan and motivated him to do works on the situation and expressed his feelings to this effect. The practice disturbed him to the extent of provoking his feelings and eventually putting what was happening in writing. He therefore, provokes his readers through this irony to come up with ways of addressing this poverty situation and relieve the Irish people from unnecessary suffering.

The writer is seeking for a different interpretation into the whole issue. He wants the readers to think in the opposite direction and be able to deduce the facts presented. Jonathan opposes the authorities policy on selling of the baby, which has been successfully hidden. Apart from concealing his identity, the writer also wants the people of Ireland to wake up and oppose the injustice they were being subjected to. A rational reader is able to find out what the narrator is trying to pass out. He chooses not to use direct meanings so as to avoid any case of being taken out of context. Also, this choice of not being direct in his reporting is so as to increase the interest of his readers to want more from the narrations.

The proposal at the beginning, describes the living conditions of Irish common people. So bad is the situation that the writer acknowledges the mess and wants an immediate solution from his target audience to address this menace. To lead by an example, he goes ahead to provide suggestion on the best way to solve the deplorable condition of the common peasant Irish people. After posing this suggestion which in itself is ironical, he sarcastically gives the benefits of such a solution. In his solution, Jonathan sarcastically supports the idea of eating/ selling children to enhance the economic status of common people whose majority was made up of peasants. He states that for the poverty to be eliminated, parents should consider selling babies to the willing buyers. There was an already established market where these babies could be sold out.

Among the ironical advantages Swift gives are; first and foremost, by selling babies, the parents will relieve themselves from the burden of taking care of the children when they grow up. To him, poor parents will be able to make some good money from the sale of their babies. They can later use this money to better their lifestyles and maintain themselves (Swift, 2016 p 210). Therefore, parents should take the step of releasing themselves the burden of rearing children to the old stage. The reader should however, come up with viable solutions contrary to this. Swift also suggests that the sale of babies will greatly reduce the population which according to many, is the main cause of poverty in Ireland. Selling babies will ensure the future population is reduced and eventually reduce the overpopulation currently witnessed. When this happens, poverty will have been eliminated.

A research done in 2015 had shown that Ireland had a total of 120,000 children (Swift, 2016 p 200). This is the data Jonathan Swift uses to express his feelings for the peasant people, in an attempt to sell out his idea to the public. He recommends that out of this number, 20,000 can be spared and allowed to breed locally of which 5,000 should be male gender. The remaining 100,000 are then supposed to be cared for well and given enough food to make them more attractive to the buyers (Marshal, 2015 p 134).

The narrator states that these babies should suck their mothers breasts for nutrients especially at the time when they are about to be sold. This breast feeding will help them grow and attract the buyers. They ought to be sold later in the year when they have able to fetch some good money. This is the way Jonathan presented his case in his modest proposal on the situation of Ireland people. Ireland is brought out as a very poor country whose people are languishing in poverty. The narrator of this situation, Jonathan Swift shares greatly in their displeasure.

Jonathan Swift has successfully presented his thought and feelings concerning the bad state of Irish people. Although he seems to be for the idea of selling babies, a deeper analysis reveals otherwise. He chose this style so as to attract public recognition and fasten the whole process of coming up with an option to solve the poverty.

Jonathan wanted his readers to come up with a human solution which could be acceptable world-wide. He therefore sarcastically gives a solution which an ordinary thinker may oppose. His primary aim was to enable readers think out of the box and suggest alternative solutions, contrary to what he is advocating for. Jonathan Swift did this so as to hide his identity and that of his family. He sought to communicate to his readers and had no intentions of revealing who he was.

In conclusion, the world should come to the plight of Irish people. Having read the story on the situation, a discussion need to be started world-wide to solve this problem once and for all. Suggestions should be given on how best the mess can be solved so that no other country is befallen by the same challenges.

The act of selling babies was simply a learning tool for the audience to think more about the issue. This is a practice which if allowed to continue, will kill the generations to come. Some of the recommendations that can be adopted include; empowering the people within economical activities to enable them provide for themselves. To address the overpopulation problem, the country should sensitize its population on the need to implement family planning. Family planning will ensure that the resources are not over burden by high population.

When the world comes together, a better solution will be arrived at. In giving suggestions however, key attention should be given to the kind of recommendations to adopt. The Irish people as explained above are in a condition that requires urgent and meaningful solutions that help even the generations to come. Jonathan did reveal the situation of Ireland and it now remains the responsibility of those who have read his piece of work to do the necessary. The readers should get disturbed and initiate the process of arriving at a solution.

Works Cited

  • Alff, David. "Swift's Solar Gourds and the Rhetoric of Projection." Eighteenth-Century Studies 47.3 (2014): 245-260.
  • Doody, Margaret Anne. "11 Swift among the WomerHI." Jonathan Swift (2014): 196.
  • Marshall, Ashley. Swift and History: Politics and the English Past. Cambridge University Press, 2015.
  • Muecke, Douglas Colin. Irony and the Ironic. Vol. 12. Taylor & Francis, 2017.
  • Wood, Nigel. Jonathan Swift. Routledge, 2014.
  • Swift, Jonathan, et al. Irish Political Writings After 1725: A Modest Proposal and Other Works. Cambridge University Press, 2016.

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A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift. (2019, May 15). Retrieved June 23, 2024 , from

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