The Uses for Babies in Ireland in a Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

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With a swift skim over Johnathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, one might come to the conclusion that Swift wrote a proposal on other uses for babies in Ireland. However, by digging deeper into knowing Swifts background and further analyzing the proposal, it is understood that Swift was a satiric author. A Modest Proposal is an example of modern day’s political cartoon. Since 1177, Ireland was under the British control (“A Modest Proposal,” 2016). It is sarcastic response to solve the economic problems in Ireland. Swift successfully and effectively addressed his audience through expressing his disgust at the Irish people, his use of sarcasm and outrageous humor on the issues occurring in Ireland.

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Johnathan Swift’s purpose for writing this is to call attention to the Irish, his audience, on being abused by the English Protestants. During Swift’s time period, Ireland was under the British rule. There were many issues occurring, one example was Ireland being majority Irish Catholic and England being mainly Protestant (“A Modest Proposal,” 2016). Due to this issue, England passed many laws that limited the rights of Irish Catholics. While England was in control, the economy fell, there was famine and high taxes on the poor. The Irish were limited in advancement such as holding government office positions and receiving their education. Swift expressed his disgust at the Irish citizens for “putting up” with the way they were being treated by proposing the sacrifice of innocence babies” (P.296). While Swift’s proposal sounds ludicrous, he effectively gets his point across by exposing the problems occurring in Ireland. He is essentially saying to Ireland, there are too many people here and not enough resources; how can you put up with this? Swift also points out that most Irishmen worked on the farms owned by Englishmen who increased the rent prices to the point that many were unable to pay them.

This resulted in many families, homeless, begging and living in starvation. There are children starving in rags, women running around selling themselves out for prostitution and mothers “[selling themselves to the Barbadoes” ((Swift 1729, Pg. 295). The cruelty of these issues is enough for the Irish people to do something about their country. Swifts use of sarcasm helped addressed his audience by saying that the economy in Ireland is so bad things could not get worse. This proposal could benefit the society more than any law England will pass as well as anything the Irish people will do to help fix the economy. Swifit’s first use of sarcasm is the title, 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 to the Public. This title is anything but modest. In the title, the word modest means “not bold; limited in size, amount, or scope” (Merriam-Webmasters Dictionary 1828). This proposal is outrageous and extreme. Another one of Swift’s use of sarcasm, in his proposal, is that “at a year old be offered in sale to the persons of quality, and fortune, through the kingdom, always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump, and fat for a good table” (Pg. 297). Swift is explaining that if the people plump up their babies, they can sell them for a high cost; the fatter the baby the higher the profit. The government is not going to help out its citizen’s, how much worse could the economy get if Ireland sold their babies for money.

Humor in political cartoons are people’s way of saying, “This is what’s wrong with society, laugh with me, but acknowledge the issues.” His tone throughout the entire proposal is comical and serious he takes issues and provides a humorous solution. Even in Swift’s opposing views he says it with humor, “I can think of no other objection that will possibly be raised against this proposal, unless it should be urged that the number of people will be thereby much lessened in the kingdom” ((Swift 1729, Pg. 301). The entire proposal is humorous which makes it enjoyable, understandable and easy to comprehend. His diction is straight to the point and does not beat around the bush.

In conclusion, Swift successfully addressed his audience through his disgust at the Irish people, his use of sarcasm and humor on the issues occurring in Ireland, Swift discusses how disgusted he is with the beggars of Ireland and how no only is the government not helping, but the Irish people are not fighting for the rights they deserve. Swift’s use of sarcasm in the title and by selling babies is his way of saying the economy cannot get any worse, this proposal is not any better. Lastly, Swift’s use of humor within his proposal helped address his audience. He was able to take a serious topic and make it acknowledgeable to the people of Ireland.

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The Uses for Babies in Ireland in A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift. (2022, Oct 05). Retrieved December 5, 2022 , from
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