Jonathan Swift’s essay, A Modest Proposal is considered to be one of the finest examples of
satirical text in the field of literature. Written in the persona of a
concerned economist and published in a pamphlet way back in 1729, the tract argues
that the problem of poverty and overpopulation in Ireland can best be solved by
raising and selling the poverty-stricken children as food for the wealthy. Once
you think deeply about it, it absolutely makes perfect sense, following the
idea of turning the problem into its own solution. The tract was lengthy and
comprises lots of text; I’ve actually read it twice, first for immersion,
followed by a detailed scan and evaluation after. My goal is to evaluate and
critique the essay in terms of the following: structure or format, style,
symbolisms, and lastly, the overall impression or the generality.

Jonathan Swift makes his case in ironically conceiving
an attempt to “find out a fair, cheap, and easy Method” for converting
the starving children of Ireland into “sound and useful members of the
Commonwealth”. Then he formulated a proposal, in effect, is to fatten up these
undernourished Irish children and feed them to Ireland’s wealthy land-owners. In
line with this, the poverty-stricken children could be sold into a meat market
starting at the age of one. In which he argues that it’ll solve or will combat overpopulation
and unemployment, releasing families from the expense of child-bearing while
providing them with a little extra income, enhancing the delicacy choices and
culinary experiences of the rich, and granting to the overall economic
well-being of the nation. Swift then offers statistical support for his claims
and gives specific quantitative data about the population of children to be
sold, their mass and price, and the estimated consumption patterns. He also predicts
that the tradition of selling and eating children will have benefits on family morality,
like husbands treating their wives better and parents will value their children
in lots of ways. His conclusion is that the execution of his proposal will do further
to solve the country’s convoluted social, political, and economic troubles than
any other actions or programs that have been proposed.

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In the satirical essay, we all know the message of the
text: to call attention to the problems such as poverty and overpopulation that
were being faced by the people of Ireland. Even with the addressed crucial issue
prevailing in the essay, hyperbole and juxtaposition were also utilized to mock
heartless attitudes to the poor, as well also as the British policy to the
general Irish population. Even the title of the essay shows irony, it is
obvious that his proposal in not modest at all, it’s the opposite. It is even
more obvious that the essay is purely satirical when it presented some
delicacies and recipes out from the meat of the newfound food source, which was
suggested by Swift originating it from his friend. Additionally, the author
even spits out the advantages that is heavily supported by rigid economical,
logical reasoning and a self-righteous moral stance. All in all, Swift
obviously doesn’t sincerely want to sell the poor children as food, he utilized
the satirical approach to raise awareness of the dilemma and also to get his
point straight to the readers, or in his times, to the Irish people.

Let us tackle with the essay’s structural writing,
emphasizing on coherence and cohesion. Swift uses the standard essay format: in
which it has a proper introduction, meaty body, and a satisfying conclusion.
The introduction, he starts off with the situation of the streets of Ireland,
where the smell of poverty reeked everywhere. He then introduced the conflict
of his country, where he considers it as a dire situation, after which he
proposed a horrific solution. He then started building defenses with his
arguments, ending with a conclusion that it will be a good thing for his
country. In my opinion, he pulled off the coherence of his writing; his
thoughts were logically arranged and well crafted. But in the cohesion of his
writing, it was okay but his writing was confusing that novice readers would
really had a hard time conceptualizing his thoughts in his text, since some
text were repetitive and lots of allusions were found that some just can’t
refer to them, resulting to confusion. In some aspects like transitions and
grammar, were great. All in all, Swift managed to build his structural essay
properly, even with the flaws present to it, it managed to connect ideas
together in which the readers can properly read and can just easily flow into
his train of thought.

The style used in the essay has a certain tang to it,
which was perfectly described by William Monck Mason, in which he states “The
cold, phlegmatic style in A Modest Proposal of a political projector, who
waves the consideration of all the finer feelings of humanity, or makes them
subservient, as matters of slight moment, to the general advantages proposed in
his plan of financial improvement, is admirably well satirized. The cool,
‘businesslike’ manner, in which the calculations are stated, is equally
admirable” (340). For me, I have also felt the economical, businesslike, serious
essence and vibe to it, the need of the problem to be solved in order for the
country to prosper was recognized and felt as a reader, but at the same time the
humor was there, giving off this strange oozing feeling of doubt on the
author’s credibility. You would know that it is completely satire since no one
is inhumane enough to propose cannibalism as a solution. All in all, Swift
absolutely pulled off the style into his essay, word choice and language were excellent
but some words were too technical for beginning readers, but still it resulted
into having this unique mood, macabre atmosphere, and exquisite imagery.

Symbolisms were also existent in the essay,
specifically to deliver the author’s point to its reader. One of the symbolisms
that were prevalent in the essay was the mentions of animals, specifically
livestock such as swine, cow, sheep, deer, and more. These animals frequently
make appearance in the essay and it is, most of the time, are being compared to
the Irish children, and degrading the Irish even more. You may have noticed
that in the last parts of the essay, the word “children” was subbed as
“mortals”. It signifies that the word “mortal” washes out any of the
sympathetic portrayal and leaves us with the impression that humans are
becoming like animals. Another symbolism is the usage of “food” in the essay. The
“food”, when looking to it overtly in the essay, it directly points at the
children, but in fact it symbolizes the poor in general. The wealthy eats the
poor and plough through resources and throw pennies at the poor have plenty of
practice devouring the nation. For me, the symbolisms were perfectly used in
the essay; it hides the hidden, contextual, more alarming meaning out from this
satirical essay.

My overall impression of the story is that it has this
unique humor that I appreciate, but I still do recognize the grim themes to it.
It actually made me question at first, “Is this guy serious?” questioning his
methods and actually structured his credibility so well that it almost want you
to join his side of the argument, meaning that he conveys and convince so well,
his words actually makes sense and you, the reader, shocks in awe on how did he
do it. But still, even though with his hard-edged economic reasoning as well as
from a self-righteous moral stance, I still stand with my beliefs of not
killing, or even dare of eating anyone. This is the time I’ve realized the
brilliance of the author, he really makes you question about the solution he proposed,
morality and rationality, and that is an indication of a good author. It is
even much better that the author presented a serious, businesslike tone and at
the same relaying a very ridiculous proposal into the tract, in which I found
somehow hilarious, at the same time brilliant. Like Inverarity said on his
review on the essay on his/her blog, “The rest of the essay continues in an
absolutely straight-faced manner, laying out economic and dietary calculations,
never once hinting that a proposal to raise Irish children for their meat might
be anything less than serious. It is the sober, analytical tone that makes this
such a brilliant and famous work of satire” (“Book Review: A Modest Proposal”).
With all these hilarity and shenanigans, it is quite obvious that this
satirical essay is also a political essay in disguise, according from Lit Bug,
a reviewer from Goodreads, he stated that “Published in 1729, an era when the
British and the Irish were sworn enemies and when Ireland was reeling under a
severe drought, Swift wrote this as an attempt to criticize heavily the British
authorities who did nothing to stave off the plight of the Irish”. This
signifies that Swift made this tract to send a message to the people in a
severe calamity and criticized the authorities in the past. So basically, it’s
not just an essay of one man proposing a “modest” proposal of making poor
children into a new food source, but it is also an essay of one man spreading
awareness to the Irishmen suffering of poverty and mocking the authorities for
their incompetence. Like Rebecca Reid on her review about the essay, “Obviously,
Swift’s humorous solutions to the problems in Ireland in the early 1700s were
not reasonable; he knew that no one would sell their infants as the next main
dish in order to pay their bills. But he saw problems with the way things were:
his essay was a call for change in some way”. She’s right, what Swift was
trying to do here is to make awareness, and to make this essay as a turning
point. This essay was not meant to side on with him, but actually is to against
with him, pity the Irish, and recognize the faults of the aristocrats into the
problem prevailing in their country. All in all, in my opinion, the essay is a
good read for a short ten minutes. Although there’s this ridicule and humor
masked to it, once you delve deeper into its meaning and concepts, you will
actually understand on what it is trying to convey, utilizing irony to get his
point across, which is amazing and awesome.

Jonathan Swift’s A
Modest Proposal is a gem to its readers, for it is one of the most known
satirical essays in literature. It covers hilarity and seriousness in a pack,
which is a best read for readers in my demographic. It also has this satirical
and political side, in which both conceptualize to form a certain point across
its readers. We also have tackled the essay from its structure to the
generality, in which there were good points and bad points, but most of it never
damages the particular meaning of the essay. The best asset of this essay was
the satire, which will end with you questioning your rational and moral
thinking due only to a single proposal. I promise to you, I recommend you
reading this treasure; you would be horrified by the thoughts of the author of
even coming up with an idea of eating children for fighting poverty. But inside
to its horrid and absurd core, the author’s idea sifts in. It’s satirical but
at the same, political.