A Modest Proposal suggests to the Irish people that it would be beneficial for them to bear children and fatten them up to be sold to the English rulers so they can be favored in hopes of gaining more freedom and opportunities. Two authors with different focuses on Jonathan Swifts A Modest Proposal will aid in gathering information about social issues and class structure in relation to the history of Englands poor treatment of Ireland.
An article by Louis A. Landa highlights the strife between England and Ireland as Ireland is moving towards growth and independence but is squashed by the unproductive members of society that England has sent over; Barbra Bengelss work discusses the relation of clothing as it is discussed in A Modest Proposal and how it represents social issues and class structure. After evaluating both sources, the treatment of England can clearly be seen as the cause of social issues and unproductivity in Ireland.
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Barbra Bengels centers her analysis of Swifts A Modest Proposal on his use of clothing related terminology and how the image of clothing relates to the class and social issues in Ireland. Bengelss first quotation of A Modest Proposal is Beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, six children all in rags (Swift 1729). Bengels uses this quote to introduce her main point: as described by Swift, clothing visually defines the classes. Bengels proceeds into describing the cause of Irelands low social standing. She speculates that Swifts choice of words is promoted by the thought that clothing was the identifying factor between social classes.
Bengels also makes the statement that dressing ones child is synonymous with caring and flaunting social class to support her view. She continues on to argue that Swifts use of clothing references and the poor treatment mothers give their children, such as fattening them up and birthing them only to sell them for a profit, is a symbol of the a falling Irish society (2006 pg 14).
Bengels is taken aback by how absurd and inhumane the proposal is for the lower class women to objectify their children and treat them as animals – only tending to them for the promise of a profit. Bengelss final statement in her analysis of Swifts proposal entails that she does not think Swift was an inhuman person for his suggestion. She actually believed that Swift was intelligent in his word choice in creating puns and was impressed by his strategic use of satire to make it appear as though he really cared about the situation at hand.
Louis Landa diverges from Bengelss view of inhumanity and focuses on his interpretation of the situation between Ireland and England. Landa, the author of the journal article A Modest Proposal and Populousness, focuses on the history between England and Ireland and how the harsh treatment of England impacted the population of Ireland, and consequently the repercussions that followed- such as a low economy, masses of beggars, and overpopulation.
Landa supports Swifts thought that it would be more beneficial for the people of Ireland to sell the bodies of those who are not contributing to the overall economic and social growth of Ireland (1942, p.162). Landa continues on in his analysis of Swifts proposal and shifts his focus specifically to what he believed defined a wealthy country and how it coincided with the thought of those who lived during Swifts time. The phrase, people are the riches of a nation is repeated numerous times in Landas analysis and is the main focus throughout the essay.
He believes, like many others from Swifts time and before, that a country can be successful if it has a large number of people to contribute to the growth and work of a country, and conversely, a person who does not function properly in economic or political society makes the nation poorer, not richer (Landra 1924 p.165).
Because England continued to ship its unsuccessful members of society to Ireland, the land became overcrowded with unproductive people and ruined to potential that Ireland once had to become a successful country on its own. Conversely, Landa believes that Swifts A Modest Proposal was an argument against the previous statement that people are the riches of a nation. Landa suggests that Swift actually blamed the amount of people for the unsuccessfulness of Ireland. However, the main point of his essay was not to expose a fault in the economic structure, but to blame England for spoiling the efficiency of the natural law of Ireland and denying the Irish their natural rights (1924 p. 165)
The most prominent view that both authors share is the thought that England is grossly exploiting Ireland to a point where they are unable to provide and support themselves. Bengels makes this point clear when she introduces the point that Ireland cannot manufacture its own goods because of the lack of employment, but the thrifty Irish citizens can clothe themselves in the leftover leather skins of the children they cook and sell (Bengels 2006). Landa expands on the point that England is to blame for all of Irelands misfortune.
He includes a common thought of that time that people are the riches of a nation their labour is potential wealth but must be utilized (1942, p. 163). Landa believes Ireland is unable to utilize their potential because they are overpopulated and dont have enough resources to support such a large population. Ireland is having to send their supplies to England as payment which lowers their ability to supply for themselves.
Landa also proposed the idea that England should encourage its lower class citizens to seek opportunity elsewhere instead of merely shipping them to Ireland and creating a larger problem while providing no help and spending excess money in moving the unemployed (1942, p. 160). This is where the sources diverge. Bengles begins to focus more on the representation of clothing and how it relates to class and the social issues of Ireland, whereas Landa dives into the history and economical issues between England and Ireland.
The proposal Jonathan Swift offers to the people of Ireland is crucial as both a work of satire and a matter to be taken seriously. The proposal illuminates the discourse between an overbearing and uncaring country on one of its defenseless colonies. When reading Swifts proposal one needs to keep in mind the historical turmoil between Ireland and England and the measures that pushed Swift to write such a logically thought out, yet inhumane proposal as a means to raise awareness of the situation at hand. The two sources provide different insight to the inefficiency of Ireland while providing different focuses on the repercussions of Englands actions towards Ireland in relation to social issues and class structure.
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