Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal

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Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal

Swift was said to “declare at one stage in his life: ‘I am not of this vile country (Ireland), I am an Englishman’” (Hertford website). In his satire “A Modest Proposal,” he illustrates his dislike not only for the Irish, but for the English, organized religions, rich, greedy landlords, and people of power. It is obvious that Swift dislikes these people, but the reader must explore from where his loathing for the groups of people stems. I believe Swift not only wanted to attack these various types of people to defend the defenseless poor beggars, but he also had personal motives for his writings that stemmed from unconscious feelings, located in what Sigmund Freud would call the id, that Swift developed in his earlier years of life.

Swift’s biography can help the reader to gain insight into Swift’s irrational proposal as a result of his resentment of the various groups of people he condemns in “A Modest Proposal”. Swift was born in Dublin, Ireland and had a good childhood in which he was well educated, but when he was about three years old his mother left him in the care of his uncle. At this age Freud would have asserted that Swift was going through the Oedipus complex, where he would have had an erotic attachment to his mother. Swift’s mother leaving him at this time might have been detrimental to Swift, rendering him unable to complete the transition into manhood, as Freud believes all boys do, by eventually identifying with their father. In a sense, Swift’s mother sold him in order to benefit herself. Being left by a young boy’s mother, whom he was strongly attached might have been damaging.

Swift’s uncle sent him to very good schools in Ireland and Swift graduated fr...

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...ing some actual proposals that would work to ease the pain for the poor. Swift writes that the rich could quit being so proud and selfish and have “at least one degree of mercy towards their tenants” (Swift). Swift feels despair and rejection from every caregiver or leader in his own life, just as the poor are rejected by society so they resort to begging. He feels that something drastic will have to happen in order for things to change, otherwise the misery of being devoured by society will be upon the poor “breed for ever,” as well as himself (Swift). Perhaps it was too late for this drastic change in Swift’s life. Perhaps his unresolved childhood complexes are too distant that they would have never been resolved.

Works Cited

Hertford College. “Swift Biography”. hertford.ox.ac.uk/alumni/swift.htm. Oxford, 2004

Swift, Jonathan. “A Modest Proposal.” 1729
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