Using Satire in A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift

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“A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift, is an essay that uses satire. Merriam-Webster defines satire as: a way of using humor to show that someone or something is foolish, weak, bad, etc.: humor that shows the weaknesses or bad qualities of a person, government, society, etc. “Satire may make the reader laugh at, or feel disgust for, the person or thing satirized. Impishly or sardonically, it criticizes someone or something, using wit and clever wording—and sometimes makes outrageous assertions or claims” (Cummings, 2012). Swift, best know for “Gulliver’s Travels”, originally wrote this piece as a pamphlet in 1729 under the full title ”A Modest Proposal: For preventing the children of poor people in Ireland, from being a burden on their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the publick.”
During the 1500’s England’s Protestant King, Henry VIII, ruled Ireland. Over the next several centuries Protestant English became the primary landowners and government officials. They made many laws limiting the rights of the Irish Catholic, making it nearly impossible for any of them to advance. The English thought of the Irish as savages and trash, and forced them to live in deplorable conditions. As a result, many fled Ireland. Those remaining were poor and starving. This was the Ireland Swift was writing about.
In the beginning a picture is painted of poor dirty women with many children in tow, begging for scraps of food. Being told that this is her only purpose in life. Her children, should they survive, will grow to be no better becoming thieves, traitors for the “Pretender in Spain”(Swift, 2013), or sold off as slaves. Swift uses the word “melancholy” to describe the browbeaten condition of Ireland. (This is a perfect exampl...

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...h some way to fix the blight of the country in a manner that was beneficial to its entire people. He wanted the Irish subjugation to end and the English to take pride in the land they ruled. Swift went on to become the Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, where he funded a charitable house for poor women and Saint Patrick’s Hospital. He did not, in fact, want to eat babies; he wanted to help put an end to the awful things happening in the country that he loved.

Works Cited

Cummings, M. J. (June 2012) Cummings Study Guides

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Satire. (n.d.) In Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary

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Swift, J. (2013, February 6) The Project Gutenberg EBook of A Modest Proposal

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