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A Modest Proposal

A Modest Proposal, by Jonathan Swift, is undoubtedly one of the finest, if not the finest, examples of satire in the English language. Swift uses irony and parody from the title to the last sentence of this essay, whose narrator honestly argues for cannibalism as a solution to the oppressed, ignorant, populous and starving Catholic population of Ireland. It was a population that was being bled dry, in Swift’s mind, by the absent English Protestant landlords with the collaboration of the Parliament, ministers and crown. Swift’s use of irony is unparalleled in this essay, from his title which suggests that cannibalism, making ladies’ gloves and boots from children’s skin, and consuming the poor Irish Catholics is a “modest” proposal, to his final line which reads, “I have no children by which I can propose to get a single penny; the youngest being nine years old, and my wife past childbearing” (Swift 2151).

In actuality, Swift uses his narrator’s faulty logic and blind faith in his own moral reasoning to show the dangers of social policy that blame the poor and oppressed for their problems. Swift is attacking the wealthy landowners and those in the English government who support them in this essay. By using a narrator who confuses true reasoning with his own rationalizations and logic, Swift is cautioning against the dangers of being taken in by clever but faulty reasoning. Swift is also satirizing the narrator whose morally-blind faith in the infallibility of his own reasoning leads him to believe cannibalism of the poor is a “modest” proposal, and he is warning readers how easily they can become fooled over complex social theory when the promoter if them is clever. Most find the narrator’s proposal completely irrational in his proposal, but the narrator claims that he is a true Christian concerned with the plight of the poor. He quotes scientific experts, manipulat


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A Modest Proposal. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 21:57, July 01, 2022, from