Jonathan Swift’s political satire, A Modest Proposal, introduces an extreme and appalling plan for reducing the financial burden Irish children had upon their poor families and society as a whole. There is much criticism in this political satire that is directed toward the landlords, government, and wealthy citizens of Ireland. Swift began his appeal in regards to a solution to the economic problems and lack of compassion in society. He formed his solution, introducing an extreme view of how severe the problem really was (Swift).
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Establishment of Concern
First a basis of concern is related. There were issues in society that arose when parents were unable to support their large families of multiple children. Families were forced to beg for sustenance. The children were later affected by the economic problems too, as they grew up and were also unable to find work. Children often resorted to thievery, leaving the country, or selling themselves. Swift believed that a successful plan must be efficient, affordable, and fair for all citizens. The goal was to create upstanding citizens that could care for themselves (Swift).
When Children Can Begin Helping the Family
Swift proposed that children contribute to their family as early as one year of age. One year of age was the age that they no longer depended upon their mother’s milk. Swift proclaimed that children should be divided into groups of breeders, with four females to one male. There would also be a percentage that would be sold to wealthy individuals to use as a food source as well as for making goods such as gloves and shoes. This plan was intended to contribute a profit to the parents, and to relieve the burden of childcare. Additionally, women would then be able to work until becoming pregnant again (Swift).
Plea for Alternative Solutions
Swift ensured that he was open for other solutions that could be equally efficient, inexpensive, easy, and what he claimed to believe as innocent. He wanted to make people actively think about what could be done. Typically when there is an extremely controversial proposal of an idea people tend to try harder to find alternatives (Swift).
Who Is to Blame?
Swift believed that the wealthy citizens and government officials were heartless and self-centered; they had no regard for others and their concerns, especially the poor. The topic of the essay is outrageous, but is written in a serious manner. Swift wanted to make sure that his words were seriously considered (Swift).
Call to Action
The satire also played upon the trends of the time. Illogical ideas and inefficient solutions were the norm of the period. Swift wanted to remind the government and wealthy citizens that people are real, not merchandise. When reading the plan, the reader is forced to relate to and sympathize with the poor Irish citizens. People are reminded that no one deserves to lose a child to feed the wealthy (Swift).
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Swift was motivated by his own compassion for the people. He introduced an extreme and questionable plan of attack and unrealistic outcomes. Swift made his point by introducing horrendous solutions. The reader is forced to see how grim the situation really is. The reader must seriously evaluate their own morals and political ideals. When beliefs, morals, safety, and security are compromised people look for answers. Swift believed that people needed to be reminded of compassionate behavior in order to begin actively and seriously finding an answer (Swift).
Swift, Jonathan. A Modest Proposal. Project Gutenberg, 1729. Document.