In the mid-18th century, Ireland was a country stricken by severe poverty. Governed largely by a few wealthy English landowners, the Irish masses faced high taxation, food shortage, and over population. In “A Modest Proposal,” Jonathan Swift suggests a radical solution to Ireland’s poverty problem by means of consuming Irish infants. By using heavy literary satire to demonstrate the economic and religious prejudice surrounding Ireland, Jonathan Swift pushes the passive upper class and discriminating politicians to take action and help Ireland. The title of Swift’s work rings with verbal irony.
In eighteenth century Ireland, the nation was in a famine and an epidemic of poverty due to the high prices of land and food. Jonathan Swift saw a problem, so h wrote and spread what we call today, A Modest Proposal. Swift’s essay is satirical. He exaggerates and gives inaccurate statistics to deliver a thesis that runs deeper than the explicit one about eating babies. While much of the essay seems to imply that Swift’s persona eats babies, there are some instances where Jonathan hints at the ironic themes of the writing.
In 1729, Jonathan Swift published a pamphlet called “A Modest Proposal”. It is a satirical piece that described a radical and humorous proposal to a very serious problem. The problem Swift was attacking was the poverty and state of destitution that Ireland was in at the time. Swift wanted to bring attention to the seriousness of the problem and does so by satirically proposing to eat the babies of poor families in order to rid Ireland of poverty. Clearly, this proposal is not to be taken seriously, but merely to prompt others to work to better the state of the nation.
He adopts a harsh tone in order to get his point across and help Ireland. In 1729 Ireland was going through a hard time. Ireland was in the middle of a famine and the amount of poor people was increasing. The less fortunate were having kids and they didn’t know what to do with them. Johnathan Swift is a graduate from Oxford and he believed he had the solutions to Ireland’s problems.
They were separated between protestants, who represents the continued presence of England, and Roman Catholics, who were hostile to Britain. The hostile of Britain faced many more challenges like being charged outrageous sums to live on the land that once belonged to them and their ancestors. They was on the verge of catastrophe politically, religiously, and economically. That is why emigration became an intrinsic part of Ireland before independence, and especially after the great famine. Many were forced to move, while others left voluntarily to search for employment and a better quality of life.
This new attitude was the belief that poverty was the fault of the poor. The government's role was to uphold sovereignty and win foreign wars, with very little intervention in domestic social issues. The 1834 Poor Law Report was an investigation into the failings of the Old Poor Law. It began with the ratepayers growing discomfort at paying the rising poor rates during the Napoleonic wars. The Poor Law Commission was provoked by the upward trend of relief and rural unrest; the 'Swing' riots of 1830.
England imposed extremely high taxes on Ireland and the English laws which restricted Irish trade made it impossible for the country to ever prosper. In general, the English had, at this time, a negative attitude towards Irish people, and Roman Catholics which most Irish people were. This knowledge is important when reading and understanding this piece. Without knowing a little about the political and social state at this time, it may be difficult to pick up on Swift’s use of satire. However the piece itself, even the full title does educate the reader to an extent, talking about different social classes and focusing particularly on the poor in Ireland.
The entire proposal stands as a satire in itself; an analogy paralleling the tyrannical attitude of the British toward their Irish counterparts. In short, Swift suggests that parents of Ireland are owned by the British, and babies are property of their parents, therefore, England has a right to consume the Irish babies. Swift uses this syllogism throughout to show the British that their despotic reign in Ireland has left the miserable nation in poverty and disarray without any type of sustainable economy. Swift writes, “Some persons of a desponding nature are in great concern.” This is not simply a concern over the number of poor and malnourished in the country as Swift writes in the text; rather it is an ironic illustration of the Irish nation in shambles. The British have reigned over the Irish so long and so cruelly that they have left Ireland in a state of dependence psychologically, politically, and economically.
In Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” written in 1729, he writes of the hardships faced by the lower class and proposes a solution to help it out. Living in Ireland, Swift witnessed many hardships suffered among the poor, such as stealing and begging. However, not too far away, the British royalty was living a lavish lifestyle, and by doing so, it was sucking the life out of the poor. Jonathan Swift saw this enormous unbalance of wealth and wanted to do something about it. Therefore, in his article, “A Modest Proposal”, Swift’s aims to publicly humiliate the rich by demonstrating how they always take from the poor.
Irishmen, educated, father and husband. All these titles make Jonathan Swift more than qualified to be the author of “A Modest Proposal,” published in the 1729. It discussed the astonishing poverty that was sweeping the Irish nation, his home country, during the early 18th century, which in his opinion was not the nations own doing. He adopts a sarcastic tone in order to display to the Irish people the injustices cast upon them, and to inspire his countrymen to rise up from poverty and stand up to those who held them down. During the 1720’s, the Irish people were suffering dearly, due to the oppression by Great Britain.