Jonathan Swift’s essay, A Modest Proposal is considered to be one of the finest examples ofsatirical text in the field of literature. Written in the persona of aconcerned economist and published in a pamphlet way back in 1729, the tract arguesthat the problem of poverty and overpopulation in Ireland can best be solved byraising and selling the poverty-stricken children as food for the wealthy. Onceyou think deeply about it, it absolutely makes perfect sense, following theidea of turning the problem into its own solution. The tract was lengthy andcomprises 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 andcritique 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 conceivingan attempt to “find out a fair, cheap, and easy Method” for convertingthe starving children of Ireland into “sound and useful members of theCommonwealth”. Then he formulated a proposal, in effect, is to fatten up theseundernourished Irish children and feed them to Ireland’s wealthy land-owners. Inline with this, the poverty-stricken children could be sold into a meat marketstarting at the age of one. In which he argues that it’ll solve or will combat overpopulationand unemployment, releasing families from the expense of child-bearing whileproviding them with a little extra income, enhancing the delicacy choices andculinary experiences of the rich, and granting to the overall economicwell-being of the nation. Swift then offers statistical support for his claimsand gives specific quantitative data about the population of children to besold, their mass and price, and the estimated consumption patterns.
He also predictsthat the tradition of selling and eating children will have benefits on family morality,like husbands treating their wives better and parents will value their childrenin lots of ways. His conclusion is that the execution of his proposal will do furtherto solve the country’s convoluted social, political, and economic troubles thanany other actions or programs that have been proposed.In the satirical essay, we all know the message of thetext: to call attention to the problems such as poverty and overpopulation thatwere being faced by the people of Ireland. Even with the addressed crucial issueprevailing in the essay, hyperbole and juxtaposition were also utilized to mockheartless attitudes to the poor, as well also as the British policy to thegeneral Irish population. Even the title of the essay shows irony, it isobvious that his proposal in not modest at all, it’s the opposite.
It is evenmore obvious that the essay is purely satirical when it presented somedelicacies and recipes out from the meat of the newfound food source, which wassuggested by Swift originating it from his friend. Additionally, the authoreven spits out the advantages that is heavily supported by rigid economical,logical reasoning and a self-righteous moral stance. All in all, Swiftobviously doesn’t sincerely want to sell the poor children as food, he utilizedthe satirical approach to raise awareness of the dilemma and also to get hispoint 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: inwhich 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 conflictof his country, where he considers it as a dire situation, after which heproposed a horrific solution.
He then started building defenses with hisarguments, ending with a conclusion that it will be a good thing for hiscountry. In my opinion, he pulled off the coherence of his writing; histhoughts were logically arranged and well crafted. But in the cohesion of hiswriting, it was okay but his writing was confusing that novice readers wouldreally had a hard time conceptualizing his thoughts in his text, since sometext were repetitive and lots of allusions were found that some just can’trefer to them, resulting to confusion. In some aspects like transitions andgrammar, were great.
All in all, Swift managed to build his structural essayproperly, even with the flaws present to it, it managed to connect ideastogether in which the readers can properly read and can just easily flow intohis 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 “Thecold, phlegmatic style in A Modest Proposal of a political projector, whowaves the consideration of all the finer feelings of humanity, or makes themsubservient, as matters of slight moment, to the general advantages proposed inhis plan of financial improvement, is admirably well satirized. The cool,’businesslike’ manner, in which the calculations are stated, is equallyadmirable” (340). For me, I have also felt the economical, businesslike, seriousessence and vibe to it, the need of the problem to be solved in order for thecountry to prosper was recognized and felt as a reader, but at the same time thehumor was there, giving off this strange oozing feeling of doubt on theauthor’s credibility. You would know that it is completely satire since no oneis inhumane enough to propose cannibalism as a solution. All in all, Swiftabsolutely pulled off the style into his essay, word choice and language were excellentbut some words were too technical for beginning readers, but still it resultedinto 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 symbolismsthat were prevalent in the essay was the mentions of animals, specificallylivestock such as swine, cow, sheep, deer, and more.
These animals frequentlymake appearance in the essay and it is, most of the time, are being compared tothe Irish children, and degrading the Irish even more. You may have noticedthat in the last parts of the essay, the word “children” was subbed as”mortals”. It signifies that the word “mortal” washes out any of thesympathetic portrayal and leaves us with the impression that humans arebecoming 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 thechildren, but in fact it symbolizes the poor in general. The wealthy eats thepoor and plough through resources and throw pennies at the poor have plenty ofpractice devouring the nation. For me, the symbolisms were perfectly used inthe essay; it hides the hidden, contextual, more alarming meaning out from thissatirical essay.My overall impression of the story is that it has thisunique 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 hismethods and actually structured his credibility so well that it almost want youto 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 hedo it. But still, even though with his hard-edged economic reasoning as well asfrom a self-righteous moral stance, I still stand with my beliefs of notkilling, or even dare of eating anyone. This is the time I’ve realized thebrilliance 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 iseven much better that the author presented a serious, businesslike tone and atthe same relaying a very ridiculous proposal into the tract, in which I foundsomehow hilarious, at the same time brilliant.
Like Inverarity said on hisreview on the essay on his/her blog, “The rest of the essay continues in anabsolutely straight-faced manner, laying out economic and dietary calculations,never once hinting that a proposal to raise Irish children for their meat mightbe anything less than serious. It is the sober, analytical tone that makes thissuch a brilliant and famous work of satire” (“Book Review: A Modest Proposal”).With all these hilarity and shenanigans, it is quite obvious that thissatirical 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 theBritish and the Irish were sworn enemies and when Ireland was reeling under asevere drought, Swift wrote this as an attempt to criticize heavily the Britishauthorities who did nothing to stave off the plight of the Irish”. Thissignifies that Swift made this tract to send a message to the people in asevere calamity and criticized the authorities in the past.
So basically, it’snot just an essay of one man proposing a “modest” proposal of making poorchildren into a new food source, but it is also an essay of one man spreadingawareness to the Irishmen suffering of poverty and mocking the authorities fortheir incompetence. Like Rebecca Reid on her review about the essay, “Obviously,Swift’s humorous solutions to the problems in Ireland in the early 1700s werenot reasonable; he knew that no one would sell their infants as the next maindish 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 wastrying to do here is to make awareness, and to make this essay as a turningpoint. This essay was not meant to side on with him, but actually is to againstwith him, pity the Irish, and recognize the faults of the aristocrats into theproblem prevailing in their country.
All in all, in my opinion, the essay is agood read for a short ten minutes. Although there’s this ridicule and humormasked to it, once you delve deeper into its meaning and concepts, you willactually understand on what it is trying to convey, utilizing irony to get hispoint across, which is amazing and awesome.Jonathan Swift’s AModest Proposal is a gem to its readers, for it is one of the most knownsatirical 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 satiricaland political side, in which both conceptualize to form a certain point acrossits readers. We also have tackled the essay from its structure to thegenerality, in which there were good points and bad points, but most of it neverdamages the particular meaning of the essay. The best asset of this essay wasthe satire, which will end with you questioning your rational and moralthinking due only to a single proposal. I promise to you, I recommend youreading this treasure; you would be horrified by the thoughts of the author ofeven coming up with an idea of eating children for fighting poverty. But insideto its horrid and absurd core, the author’s idea sifts in.
It’s satirical butat the same, political.