A Modest Proposal

817 Words4 Pages
People have been trying to come up with solutions to threatening epidemics from many years. There was a famine in Ireland that killed many people. The poor people of Ireland could not support their families, which made them go to extreme measures. In order to survive, women and children were forced to beg for food to prevent them from starving to death. Jonathan Swift proposes a solution to this epidemic in A Modest Proposal. Swift states that the poor Irish should sell their children as if they were cattle, or better yet, eat the children themselves. Swift uses a mocking tone in order to effectively convey that he does not actually support cannibalism, but rather uses it as metaphor to describe the harsh times of Ireland. Swift’s occupation makes A Modest Proposal very ironic. “He was educated at Trinity College, was ordained a minister, and was appointed dean of Saint Patrick’s cathedral in Dublin in 1713” (914). Swift was very critical of how the government was handling issues at this time. “He addressed the political problems of his day by publishing pamphlets on contemporary social issues” (914). Since the reader knows that Swift was a minister, it helps set the stage for a sarcastic tone. A minister would never condone the selling of poor, innocent children. Jonathan Swift uses verbal irony to emphasize his sarcasm. He does so by mentioning the Catholic Church while saying, “infants’ flesh will be in season throughout the year, but more plentiful in March, and a little before and after” (916). The people of Ireland would practice “lent” (916) in order to be considered holy by the Roman Catholic Church, all while killing babies. Catholics are extremely against abortion and birth control of any kind. Mentioning the Roman Catholic Church in the same paragraph as killing babies is a perfect example of irony. Swift uses satire to give the reader his strange insight. He goes into great detail about how to cure such an overwhelming epidemic. He stylistically uses a very harsh, sarcastic tone when describing what he would do with the poor children of Ireland. “A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends, and when the family dines alone, the fore and hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter” (916). He is not only extremely harsh, but he goes into such detail it makes the reader want to cringe.

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