“For preventing the children of poor people in Ireland from being a burden to their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the public” (Swift 2431). If you have ever heard of Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, but have not read it, you probably have heard something along the lines of it being about eating babies. While it technically is about eating babies, there is a much deeper meaning behind it. A Modest Proposal is a severely satirical essay. Swift wants to “satirize [his] target through a hyperbolic mimicry designed to evoke strong negative feelings” (Herron 419). Its true purpose is to make people realize Swift’s aggravation towards Irelands politician’s incompetence, the horrible conditions that he sees Irish people living in, and how the wealthy look past everything. Swift is tired of seeing these things and decides to write A Modest Proposal in order to make everyone truly see what is going on. Jonathan Swift uses satire about eating children to try and inform England about the problems the people of Ireland were facing.
One of the main points Swift is trying to make in A Modest Proposal is consistency. He wants the people to react with dismay when he says that we should eat babies. Along with the disgust about eating babies, Swift wants the people to be disgusted by the conditions that he was ultimately tying with the idea of cannibalism. He wants to provoke a response from people saying how horrible they think that it is to eat babies and when they say this, he wants them to know that selling children as food so that the parents can make money, is not very different from letting the children and parents starve to death on the streets just like they do on a daily basis. Even though cannibalism was not a common thing:
The sheer truth that infants were killed or died of neglect and starvation as a direct result of Ireland’s exploitation was what infuriated him, and the exposure of this state of affairs in the bland self-satisfied language of a public-spirited statistician was what stirred the anger of its eighteenth-century readers. (Yankauer 985)
To Swift, the consistency between eating children and letting them live in the conditions they are facing now is one of the most important ideas that he is trying to point out.
If you have ever taken a philosophy class, or know anything about philosophy, then you should know logic. Along with this logic, you should know what a syllogism is. A syllogism is a conclusion that can be drawn from two premises. Jonathan Swift lays out two basic syllogisms in A Modest Proposal. The people know that they should not do things that are cruel and that eating children is cruel; therefore, people should not eat children. While Swift does mention that we should eat children in order to solve the problems that we are facing, he really wants the people to see the problem and actually do something about it. This leads to his second syllogism. The people know that they should not do things that are cruel and that letting others starve is cruel therefore, people should not let others starve as they sit idly by and watch.