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A Modest Proposal

In "A Modest Proposal," British satirist Jonathan Swift (1729, p. 2) argued that the problem of famine and starvation in Ireland could be solved by making excess children under the age of two available as a food source, thus preventing "those voluntary abortions, and that horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children, alas! too frequent among us!" Additionally, given that Swift (1729) felt that many Irish parents, faced with the slow and painful deaths of their young children, tended to kill them off or abandon them to starvation on the streets, his proposal that these children become transformed into a useful source of nutrition was meant to remind his readers that the Irish situation was dire. Swift (1729, p. 5) also pointed out in his ironic and satirical recommendation that a major part of the problem in Ireland was the lack of available work: there were "A great a number of both sexes in every country being now ready to starve for want of work and service."

In this manner, Swift (1729) levies criticism against several groups. He challenges the British government and polity for failing to recognize the need of the Irish for gainful employment and assistance. He chastises parents who have more children than they can afford. He condemns women and mothers who abort children or parents who leave them to starve or sell them into wage slavery. He spares no one in calling for meaningful reforms that will put and end to the abuse of vulnerable children.

Swift, J. (1729). A Modest Proposal. Retrieved April 30, 2009,



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A Modest Proposal. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 21:34, July 01, 2022, from