Literary Analysis of Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal

Essay by sedentaryeliteHigh School, 11th gradeA+, March 2004

download word file, 4 pages 3.0

Downloaded 93 times

In A Modest Proposal, Jonathan Swift protests the egregious manner in which the English treat the Irish. He is attempting to change the minds of his audience to shame them for their attitude towards the Irish. He is suggesting that eating the Irish children are the solution to the crowded streets of England. Swift, throughout the text, treats the infants and mothers as livestock, delicacies to be eaten by the English, satirizing how they think of and treat the Irish as animals.

To get past the barrier his audience would have against objectionable ideas, Swift often uses implication to get the reader to think about the objectionable ideas. Instead of trying to force his ideas through the wall, he throws them over the wall. Just like English's "racism," the wall prevents them from really seeing the ideas before they are on the reader's side, and at that point, the reader must think about them to make them go away.

In the case of his audience, this method was most effective. If the English people were at all "racist" towards the Irish, they would be shamed because of the absurdity he implies in his writing. This effect on the English is what Swift was looking for.

The most direct and noticeable way he suggests the animalistic nature of the Irish is in his diction. He chooses words for the different family members and population that are always used to refer to animals and animal populations: "but this being granted, there will remain an hundred and seventy thousand breeders." At a quick glance, Swift's target audience might not take notice, just considering the words as a quirk of the author's writing style. However, as the reader begins to think more about the implications of the writing, the meaning of the words...