A Modest Proposal By Swift Versus Candide By Voltaire: Comparative Essay

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“It is a melancholy object to those, who walk through this great town, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads and cabbin-doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for an alms.” Swift starts with these lines in his essay in “A Modest Proposal.” This work of Swift is said to be one of the most efficacious satires in the history of English Literature. The work is all about sympathy and searches for a solution. Through this proposal, Swift wants to create an idea about the ways through which there can be a decrease in the number of abortions, which are done by poor mothers. He also does the calculation of the number of infants born in Ireland and gives an idea about what can be done.

Talking about the infants, Swift says that they are not fit for employment and are too young to do the stealing. The only option, according to him, is to eat them when the infants reach the age of one year. He also states that the weight of the infants will determine the dish— the kind of and for how many— they are suitable. He even says that every part of the infant is useful—for example, their skin will be used for making gloves for women.

A friend of Swift, “a worthy person,” suggests that children of fourteen can be a potential food. Later on, he gives the six reasons that suit the most for the proposal to be adopted. First, he says that it will decrease the count of Catholics. Second, the proposal will provide the poor with some property. Third, the proposal will increase the overall wealth of the nation. Fourth, the children will no longer be the burden for the mother as the mothers will be free of bringing up their child/children. Fifth, the proposal will give way to the new food. And the last, the sixth one, the proposal will uplift the importance of marriage where women will take care of their child and the men of the family, in return, will take care of the women as the mothers will make more babies which will get them money and food.

Towards the end of the essay, Swift says that he does not have any children, which will get him no profit. While analyzing the text based on satire, we will come across the following matters. The stereotypes or conventional thoughts against the Irish Catholics can been seen. By using satire, Swift charges on the Catholics that they tend to have many children and through this proposal, it will decrease the number of Catholics. Through satire, he says that the rich will become dependent on the poor. He also uses the theme of prejudice against the poor or the lower class by saying that the skin of the poor children will be used for making the gloves for women and clothing. By talking about his friend, “a worthy person,” he uses satire on the upper class, which means that the rich people or the people of the upper class are very much disconnected with the poor people or the lower class and they will think the proposal as bizarre.

Now let us discuss the satire in “Candide” by Voltaire. The novel starts with the “Castle of Westphalia.” The text starts from “In a castle of Westphalia, belonging to the Baron of Thunder-ten-Tronckh, lived a youth, whom nature had endowed with the most gentle manners. His countenance was a true picture of his soul. He combined a true judgment with simplicity of spirit, which was the reason, I apprehend, of his being called Candide.” The basic point over here for the satire can be “optimism.” Throughout the novel, we will see “optimism” in the characters like Candide, the hero of the novel and Pangloss

Pangloss is the character who is the utmost optimist, and he remains optimist until the end of the novel. According to him, ‘since everything was made for a purpose, everything is necessarily for the best purpose.” We will find that the author, Voltaire, has also use absurdity, which is through hyperbole— for example, we will read that when James was drowning, and Pangloss says that he has been destined to drown. Talking about religion as a satire we will read that a friar does the stealing, a prostitute is being bought by a monk, and a sex slave is being bought. Candide finds the world as the worst place, and for him, there is no kind God, and it is one’s foolishness that he believes that a kind God exists. We will also find that there is a criticism or say satire on power and politics. Through satire, he focuses on the inconsistency of the government and lack of ability of rulers— for example, Buenos Ayres has been given different names to show his pride and conceit. Candide meets different people and their suffering shows the failure of leadership. Through the words of Martin, who says, ‘I can only hope to presume that there are millions of people on this earth who are many times more to be pitied than King Charles Edward, or Emperor Ivan, or Sultan Achmed,” it becomes more clear.

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Moving towards the other example of satire we will find a discussion of social ladder irrespective of religion, class, or politics. Throughout the novel, we will find the contrast between the upper class and of those, whom Candide meets, strengthen the satire in the novel.

Now, let us compare the use of satire in “Candide” by Voltaire and “A Modest Proposal” by Swift. In both the works, we will find the similarities in the satire. In Swift’s work, there are satires on class, government, leadership, religion, and wealth whereas in the novel by Voltaire, satire is being used in the same way; that is, class, government, leadership, religion, and wealth. We will also find that these two authors share a common goal of social ladder or we can say class hierarchies. In “ A Modest Proposal,” Swift says that the poor are being suppressed by the upper class and by giving the proposal of eating their child will make the rich to be dependent on the expense of poor; even the skin of the children can be useful. In “Candide,” Voltaire talks about class order or social ladder. We will find that the upper class has foibles and the suffering of the lower class or the poor people, through the eyes of Candide, is being contrasted. Another common goal shared by these two authors can be the failure of government and leadership. In “Candide,” Voltaire says that it is the failure of the government or the lack of ability of the leaders or rulers has resulted in such conditions By giving the example of the governor, who has several names, shows the false pride and conceit created by the authorities. In Swift’s work, “A Modest Proposal,” the government has failed to look after the suffering of the poor, and by giving the proposal. Swift has used satire on the government and leaders, which is a basic characteristic of “satire”(already discussed at the beginning of this answer).

According to me, the most effective for initiating social reform would be “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift because this work has sympathy and also gives a solution, which is a weird solution but it should not be read with literal meaning. As we know, it is a satire, and eating one’s child should not be believed. Things are done to criticize the government and those who opt for abortion. The satire is on those who think that by doing abortion one will not have to take care of their child, and there will be a decrease in the liability. By targeting the Catholics, he charges on the upper class of the society and the Irish government. With the use of satire, the Irish Catholics become an easy target. Due to the increased population, the resources cannot be equally distributed, and the Catholics tend to have many children, which, become the subject of satire. He also targets the landlords, to whom the tenants have to pay the rent. It will help them to pay the rent to the landlords by selling their kids to the rich, for which he says the following lines:

“Secondly, The poorer tenants will have something valuable of their own, which by law may be made liable to a distress, and help to pay their landlord’s rent, their corn and cattle being already seized, and money a thing unknown.”

The horrific concept by Swift is in a way that seems logical, and it targets the readers without letting them know. Through his work, he tries to expose the reality of Ireland; however, it is not only the condition of Ireland but also the situation prevailing all around the world. The solution for the problem seems to be absurd as he says that the poor should sell their child to the rich as they will a good or tasty meals for the rich and through this, it will provide the poor with more and more money to carry out their expense. It can be understood from the following line from the text:

“I do therefore humbly offer it to publick consideration, that of the hundred and twenty thousand children, already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed, whereof only one fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle, or swine, and my reason is, that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our savages, therefore, one male will be sufficient to serve four females. That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in sale to the persons of quality and fortune, through the kingdom, always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump, and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends, and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt, will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.”

Swift further critiques on the upper class and says that the skin of the children can also be used for making boots for gentlemen and gloves for women, for which he says, “Those who are more thrifty (as I must confess the times require) may flea the carcass; the skin of which, artificially dressed, will make admirable gloves for ladies, and summer boots for fine gentlemen.”

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A Modest Proposal By Swift Versus Candide By Voltaire: Comparative Essay. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 6, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/a-modest-proposal-by-swift-versus-candide-by-voltaire-comparative-essay/
“A Modest Proposal By Swift Versus Candide By Voltaire: Comparative Essay.” Edubirdie, 18 Mar. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/a-modest-proposal-by-swift-versus-candide-by-voltaire-comparative-essay/
A Modest Proposal By Swift Versus Candide By Voltaire: Comparative Essay. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/a-modest-proposal-by-swift-versus-candide-by-voltaire-comparative-essay/> [Accessed 6 Jul. 2022].
A Modest Proposal By Swift Versus Candide By Voltaire: Comparative Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 18 [cited 2022 Jul 6]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/a-modest-proposal-by-swift-versus-candide-by-voltaire-comparative-essay/
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