The Summary of A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

Essay by BBBastetCollege, UndergraduateA+, April 2004

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Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal is a short satirical literary work, in which Swift shows dissatisfaction with the political situation in Ireland during the Age of Rationalism. In this period of time, Ireland was in a great poverty and was being abused by the English and Swift wrote this piece in order to emphasize the terrible situation. He uses a cold, very objective tone to stress the absurdity of his proposal.

As for the title, that is a big irony straight from the beginning, since Swift's proposal is anything but modest. In the beginning of his essay, Swift is giving the reader an insight into the situation of poor children and their mothers in Ireland, claiming that their only chance for survival is to beg for food or to become thieves. If they cannot survive by doing this, they have to "sell themselves to Barbados" (801). Swift then says that his solution to the overpopulation of children does not affect only the children of "professed beggars" (801) but all the children of certain age, whose parents cannot take care of them.

In the fourth paragraph, Swift states that the children will contribute to the feeding and clothing of many people in Ireland. It is probably here, where the reader starts thinking that Swift's proposal may be a little bit unique. In the following paragraph, Swift uses the expression "wives are breeders", which gives the reader a definite hint that Swift may not be talking seriously.

Finally, in the seventh paragraph, Swift partially reveals his proposal by letting the narrator say: "I am assured by our merchants that a boy or a girl before twelve years old is no salable commodity." (802) This gives the reader a quite clear idea of what is Swift about to propose. The narrator...