A Modest Proposal, by Jonathon Swift is very much an ironic persuasive essay. He is proposing the eating of babies as a way to help with poverty. Throughout the essay he makes many thought-out yet almost unthinkable arguments that support his proposal. You do however know he doesn't really want people to start eating babies. He is just trying to show a major problem in a shocking way. His arguments for the eating of babies are as follows: it would greatly reduce the number of poverty stricken people (especially children); it would give those same people income when they sold their children; the nation as a whole will have more money because of this new income; there would be more food for everyone (baby might even become a delicacy); people would save a lot of money by not having to support their children after the first year of birth; and finally, it would help out marriages since there would be less stress on the parents.
These theories are stated and supported throughout Swift's essay. He uses the structure of the essay to help you get a good understanding of the material he is presenting. The basic structure of the essay starts out with him explaining the problem he plans to help solve, that Dublin is poverty stricken. There are too many beggars with way too many children. Next, he starts to subtly drop hints about his proposal. He explains that he is going to, "Humbly propose (his) own thoughts," and that he hopes they, "Will not be liable to the least objection."(Abcarian, 629) He continues by further explaining some of his proposal's benefits, then in a list fashion states the six main arguments for it. Swift then adds his last few reasons why people should consider h...
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...t before he is about to say something horrible. This is ironic because it is not expected. The speaker has just totally changed his tone. The biggest use of irony is situational irony. The whole proposal is absurd and the speaker knows it. He is proposing the idea to show the larger picture. That there is no solution to this problem, and no one has any useful ideas. The eating of babies is utterly outlandish which is precisely why he chose it. The speaker of this modest proposal uses irony to create a tension that helps to convey a certain message. That message is that even though this may be a totally outrageous proposal, no one can complain or judge until they have a proposal of their own.
Fish,Tom. "The Literary Criticism." http://www.cumber.edu/litcritweb/#
Lynch, Jack. "New Criticism." http://newark.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Terms/newcrit.html
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