Satire is a literary device that uses comedy, sarcasm, and irony to get a point across. Jonathan Swift uses satire in his piece, A Modest Proposal where he employs the idea of selling and eating Irish babies to end poverty. Swifts work is actually titled as A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People of Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public and is commonly referred to as A Modest Proposal.
However, simply by looking at the title, it would never be guessed of the satirically awful solutions he was proposing. Today, there are many modern modest proposals to get other issues recognized. One such proposal is Jonathan Safran Foers Let Them Eat Dog in which the issue of the euthanization of cats and dogs is being brought to attention as well as the concept of food as being socially constructed.
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In comparing these two texts there is a very common theme: the consumption of what would be considered taboo. Although it is may be quite certain that both Swift and Foer do not actually think that society should eat babies and dogs, they do propose good reasons as to why they should. Although his main points are to poverty, Swift talks about other issues such as abortion. He stated that there were other good reasons for eating babies like that it will prevent those voluntary abortions and that horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children (Swift 6).
As for Swifts impressions on poverty, he gives many issues that are initiated by poverty that could be prevented if they eat the young. These include but are not limited to that vast number of poor people who are aged, diseased, or maimed .every day dying and rotting by cold and famine, and filth and vermin (Swift 9). The same goes for Foer and his reasons for eating mans best friend.
A main reason for Foers insistence on the consumption of dogs has to do with the fact that both dogs and cats are being killed. He gives the statistics that Three to four million dogs and cats are euthanized annually and that to get rid of their bodies is a big issue on both the economy and ecology of Earth (Foer). So, in order to end both the death of these cats and dogs and to help the economy and ecology of the world, he proposes eating dogs. Another issue that is equally as important is the fact that factory-farmed meat is the No.1 cause of global warming, it systematically forces tens of billions of animals to suffer in ways that would be illegal if they were dogs, it is a decisive factor in the development of swine and avian flus, and so on. (Foer)
Just like Swift, Foer is using something considered as taboo to get rid of an even bigger issue. They both use their taboos as preventive methods. For Swift, he used the consumption of babies as a way for poor people to get themselves out of poverty. His ideas involved selling pieces of them to the rich for money, and without the babies the poor would have less mouths to feed and bodies to take care of for multiple years (Swift 10). Foer used the dogs as a way to save the economy and ecology of Mother Earth, feeding a world of billions of omnivores who demand meat with their potatoes and stop the issues that factory farming meat causes (Foer).
Another main point of Jonathan Foers article is that the concept of food and what should be eaten is socially constructed. He brings up the fact that although dogs are considered quite exceptional Pigs are every bit as intelligent and feeling so why are they in such high demand to be eaten (Foer)? To assist in understanding the social construction of food, Foer gives the famous line from George Orwells Animal Farm: All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. Another way to comprehend social construction is to look at a place where a lot of humanity get their morals: the Bible. In the context of food practices, the Seventh-Day Adventist Christian diet is a good one to look at. They take their beliefs on what to eat directly from the book of Leviticus.
It says there that [They] may eat any animal that has a divided hoof and that chews cud (The Holy Bible, Lev. 11.3). Seventh-Day Adventists also have a core belief that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (The Holy Bible 1 Cor. 6.19). The concept that their body is not wholly their own but one of Gods allows them to be careful in what they put in their bodies. Although, this is a main reason that a lot of Seventh-Day Adventists became vegetarians, even though it never says in the Bible or in their belief systems that they cannot eat meat. The Bible actually gives examples of what animals can be eaten:
There are some that only chew the cud or only have a divided hoof, but you must not eat them. The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is ceremonially unclean for you . (The Holy Bible, Lev. 11.4)
And the pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew cud; it is unclean for you. (The Holy Bible, Lev. 11.7)
Seeing that there is a vast majority of animals who do not have both a divided hoof and chew cud, its no wonder why so many Adventists became vegetarian. However, due to this form of religion, there is a group who has a belief system on what they eat. Their form of eating was socially constructed due to their religion.
In conclusion, both Swift and Foer use satire effectively to bring attention to their respective issues. Both of them also have many similarities in the way they use their satire. The two of them use the devouring of things considered taboo to prevent and stop their particular problems: children and mans best friend. They both also include exact ways to cook these taboo items to the chagrin of the audience. However, as much as there are similarities between the two writer, there is also a difference. In Foers argument, he additionally gets the idea across that food is socially constructed, just like many things in todays society.
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