A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift challenges his audience, the affluent Englishmen, to decide for themselves to act as humans with rationality or as animals with basic survival instincts. Swift brilliantly orchestrates the methods of satire, tone, and imagery to create an exaggerated portrait of Irelands situation in the eighteenth-century. The inhumane exploitation and monopolization of estates by their English neighbors have left Irishmen in deepest of despairs and anguish for their poverty and toil.
Jonathan Swift is an Anglo-Irishman born in Dublin, Ireland but raised in London, England. After the fall of Queen Anne in 1714, Swift retrieved to Dublin to seek refuge from the follies of the newly, crowned Protestant George I. His position in Ireland rests uneasy in between two conflicting sides: the wealthy English landlords and the impoverished Irishmen. Swift is neither the richest of the landlords nor the poorest of the Irishmen. It is at this time, Swift publishes A Modest Proposal to the English landlords for the sole purpose of reformation in Ireland.
He tactfully addresses the situation with utmost sensitivity by not offending the Englishmen with angry words of frustration, but with common courtesy and intellectual stimulation. Swift is a satirist by his own right, but not in commonplace with other writers whom tell playful tales with lessons to be learned. The attitude he presents throughout A Modest Proposal is serious and difficult to understand or even notice his sarcasm. Foremost, Swift addresses his proposal under the present Distresses of the Kingdom (p. 22).
Pertaining to an actual current event in Ireland automatically persuades the audience to believe Swifts intentions are real and sincere. His proposal provides two advantages to the Publick: the prevention of involuntary abortions and instead of being a Charge upon their Parents, or the Parishcontribute to the Feeding and partly to the Cloathing of many Thousands (p. 22). These advantages clearly intend on economical and social reforms. But it is Swifts methodological manner at arriving these problems in Irelands society that astonishes his audience.
At first glance, the title undermines the reader to believe what is exactly stated, A Modest Proposal.. Moreover, his tone of polite conversation and dealing in commonplaces, such as the Town (p. 21), captures the readers with humane equality. That in fact the not-so-serious tone manipulates the reader to falsely believe the situation to be not-so-serious Citing his information from reliable sources from a principal Gentleman in the County of Cavan and a knowing American (p. 23) reassures his audience that he has no false pretensions under his belt.
Since, many men took advantages of the present situation in Ireland, with preposterous solutions of economical and social relief for their own personal gains. Also, Swift validates his calculations and collected information to his educated audience, so that they would not second guess or challenge his sources. With these faithful arrivals, Swift shocks his audience with his proposal of treating humans as commodities. Strictly for profit and gain, a child of no greater than a year old produces good meat!
Then continues to build the plausibility of child cannibalism with crazy mathematics: Thirdlythe Nations Stock will be thereby increasedfifty-thousand Pounds per Annum, besides the Profit of a new Dishthe Goods being entirely of our own Growth and Manufacture (p. 27). These associations of children and animals alter the human perspective that all things are relative in value; more or less, a human life is worthless. Crazy mathematics does not entirely sway the audience to rational reasoning of child cannibalism.
The children symbolize as a voice for Swift himself. Swift associates the children as carcasses (p. 25) comparable to sheep, black cattle or swine (p. 23) for to distance the Object (p. 21) from the audience. The irony is disturbing and extremely realistic. And only becomes more alarming when the English audience finds themselves as far away as from Ireland. Swift presents a distorted image of reality and morals, where the audience, the Protestant Englishmen, become shocked into a realization that the images are their own.
In essence, he leads the audience to believe humans are in fact animals themselves. His intent becomes clearer with the grotesque imagery of the market and the slaughterhouse: Infants flesh will be in Season throughout the Year, but more plentiful in MarchTherefore reckoning a Year after Lent, the Markets will be more glutted than usual (p. 24). The audience must picture themselves as animals, with the view to acknowledge how far from rational human beings they are.
Swift suggests trying something unrealistic because his previous ideas were far too realistic for an exceptional society such as Ireland. The proposal presents many improvements that reek havoc in Irish society. These benefits would control population growth, increase monetary fluidity and agricultural prosperity, and offer welfare benefits. Swifts previous Remedy for this one individual Kingdom of Ireland (p. 29) also solves these domestic problems but with more humane and rational tactics. The audience must choose from child cannibalism or reasonable measures of reform.
Swift does not try to show the obvious, but for his audience to realize their careless mistake of ignoring his previous endeavors. The satire in A Modest Proposal traps, in all four walls, the audiences thoughts. Is this the way we really do think, in spite of our nurtured intelligence and moral awareness Swift has no wishes for the completely insane, who agree with his proposal, to win over the sane, who do not agree. Nor has he purposefully betrayed his audience into utter hopelessness of Irelands situation.