How Does Swift Perceive Ireland?

Essay by taniakhosoUniversity, Master'sA+, February 2010

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Jonathan Swift, an Irish writer, portrayed his perception of Ireland in one of his most notable works, known as ‘A Modest Proposal’. It was first published in 1729. Having been born into the poverty of 1667, Dublin, Ireland, Jonathan Swift fully experienced the suffering of the Irish people. By the time this story was published in 1729, conditions in Ireland showed no signs of improvement. Swift made this written proposal to illustrate the desperate conditions the poor in Ireland were forced to endure and the lack of any reasonable efforts to deal with the appalling situation. This paper will discuss how Swift perceived the social, political and economic conditions of Ireland.

Swift’s so called ‘modest proposal’ begins by describing the very real poverty of people in Ireland. Swift presents this situation quite sympathetically, by portraying a surplus of children that cannot be fed and, therefore, the children turn into beggars and thieves.

Later, he creates a persona of person, who is an extreme patriot and draws out a scheme: the possibility of selling poor children in order to improve the quality life of Irish people. The bottom-line of his proposal was to feed the undernourished children, fatten them up and then fee them to the elite landlords of Ireland. Swift argued that children of the poor could be sold into a meat market at the age of one, thus, shrinking overpopulation and unemployment, and sparing families the expense of child-bearing, while providing poor families with a small extra income (Lawall and Mack, pp 58).

Swift portrays a real and pathetic society of Ireland in the early eighteenth century. He mentions that “it is a melancholy object” (Swift, pp 2) to see beggars and their children on the street and anywhere. “The streets, the road…crowded with beggars of...