Jonathan Swift 's A Modest Proposal Essay

Jonathan Swift 's A Modest Proposal Essay

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Hannah McMurtry
English 201 Essay

Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal is set in Ireland in the 1600s, a time of heavy poverty and a deplorable hierarchy. In the second paragraph of the narrative, Swift writes that someone should attempt to find a solution to “preserve the nation” and that person will eventually be him (2633). However, his solution, which is to turn the impoverished children into food for society, is eerily presented and coated with an arrogant tone, a tone also seen in Satire against Reason and Mankind by a narrative comparable to A Modest Proposal. Swift manages to bring his readers to see that they can imagine cannibalism as a last resort through comparative reasoning using the children, hypocritical ideals weaving through not only his proposal but institutions as well, and last, both Jonathan Swift and John Wilmot portray egotistical reasoning through A Modest Proposal and Satire against Reason and Mankind.
In A Modest Proposal, Swift proposes the idea of cannibalism as a politician or projector of schemes in the community. "I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing and wholesome food...I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or ragout," (Swift 2634). This quote portrays extreme rationalism because he presents the idea as though it is possible, but another tone of voice presents the idea as a joke, as if the children would be doing society a favor. "Whoever could find out a fair, cheap, and easy method of making these children sound, useful members of the commonwealth would deserve so well of the public as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation," (Swift 263...

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...though they are trying to gain attention for the current crisis in each of their periods, but in reality they are both acting out their role in the upper class of society, hypocritically criticizing the institutions and people they believe are at fault. Swift not only manages to bring attention to the poverty in Ireland through his drastic proposal, but also his and Wilmot’s own hypocrisy as they judge others for acting unethically when they are acting the same.

Works Cited

Swift, Jonathan. "A Modest Proposal." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. By James Noggle and Lawrence Lipking. New York: Norton, 2006. 2633-639. Print.

Wilmot, John, Second Earl of Rochester. "A Satire Against Reason and Mankind." 2006. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. By James Noggle and Lawrence Lipking. New York: Norton, 2006. 2301-307. Print.

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