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Dickens Hard Times & Swift's Proposal

Satire, as defined by M. H. Abrams (85) is the “literary art of diminishing a subject by making it ridiculous and evoking towards it attitudes of amusement, contempt, or scorn. It differs from comedy in that comedy evokes laughter as an end in itself, while satire ‘derides’; that is, it uses laughter as a weapon, and against a butt existing outside the work itself. That butt may be an individual, or a type of person, a class, a nation, or even the whole race of man.” If we look at Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal and Charles Dickens’ Hard Times, we see two satirical works whose butt is the wealthy English upper-class elite.

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 rationaliza...

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Dickens Hard Times & Swift's Proposal. (1969, December 31). In LotsofEssays.com. Retrieved 22:54, June 24, 2019, from https://www.lotsofessays.com/viewpaper/1685342.html