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''A Modest Proposal'' by Swift

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The power of satire incorporates in various strategies. One of them reveals the unexpected sides of human nature by applying methods of surprising the readers. This means are successfully applied by Jonathan Swift, one of the most prominent satirical writers of Juvenalian direction, in his essay titled “A Modest Proposal”.

At the beginning of the essay, a reader not familiar with the jocular nature of the piece may assume that the author’s offer will be concerned with some practical solutions for the burning social problem of poverty. Calling himself “preserver of the nation” regarding the effectiveness of the ideas he has in mind Swift tries to emphasize the seriousness of the proposal. Instead, after having read the essay to the end, a reader is surprised by the development of argumentation: the satirist offers to fight the social evils by selling children for food.

The ridicule begins to be felt already in the lines suggesting that up to the age of six children are unlikely to support themselves even by the simple craft of stealing. Since the children are unable to steal for a considerably long period of time, they should make money in another way. And here the author of the piece refers to young citizens as to a “saleable commodity” continuing the idea with a range of gastronomic endeavors of the strikingly cruel kind: Swift’s offer implies turning children into food as delicatessens for rich people. The writer’s plan is carefully elaborated as he resorts to statistical estimation of its profitability trying to make it a less absurd than it may seem. Actually, application of some economical mechanisms to solve the problem of overpopulation is what a reader expects the essay to be, and Swift partly legitimates these expectations. Nevertheless, the realization of his proposal and its details act as surprise factors.

Jonathan Swift seems to have done a comprehensive research before generating the ideas for his proposal. His arguments are so economically considered and carefully computed that a reader is almost ready to believe in their validity. The writer even describes a seasonal aspect in his business plan. He is also able to find a practical application of every part of the infant’s body, the solution for “those who are more thrifty”. A child appears to be a perfect business endeavor, a profitable bargain, and the appeal of the author’s offer is, in his mind, that such “production” can reach the industrial scale. Swift is easy to believe due to his consistent self-positioning as a patriot. He tries to convince the readers that the offer would be of great benefit for the whole nation. One of the most persuading arguments is that the writer realizes that some people might assess such practices as “a little bordering upon cruelty”. As a zealous opponent of such attitudes, Swift argues that his project is absolutely not cruel. The satirist presents a whole range of the benefits of selling children, from improvement of relations within the family and decrease of domestic violence to the solution of the unemployment problem. He concludes that his offer is “innocent, cheap, easy, and effectual” in a yet unsurpassed way. Swift is truly upset that he cannot help the country at the expense of his own family members and at the same time emphasizes that he as an inventor has no material interest in the issue.

 A clever reader would immediately recognize Swift’s style and appreciate the elaboration of the sustained irony used in “A Modest Proposal”. Such a paradoxical solution was dictated by the deplorable condition within the country. With his bitter satire the author encourages people to assess the extent of cynicism reached by the society and reminds the readers that in every crisis the top priority is to stay humane.

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