Human Being for A Living: Critical Analysis of the Main Idea of A Modest Proposal

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To normalize consuming the flesh of an organism from one's own species might be an exposition to the unceasing poverty. Jonathan Swift, an Irish author and a well-known satirist, wrote “A Modest Proposal”, published in the year 1729. His argument includes a proposition wherein children from the penurious families should be eaten to prevent being a burden to their parents. Swift begins to defend his purpose by writing his essay in a satirical way, or by using humor, exaggeration and irony to criticize someone. He also utilizes pathos in his writings as a way of expressing what he feels about the politicians in his homeland. Accusing them of not trying to solve the conflicts of their country, more specifically with finding a solution for poverty.

Back in Swift’s time, writing pamphlets was implemented and he used words to express and enumerate different kinds of expositions that could help minimize the economic problems in Ireland. His major and most important point that he focuses on is about babies, actual human beings, that could be a potential source of food for the countrymen. This idea was suggested by him due to problems being faced in their economy. One of the obstacles being faced is poverty. This is very common in any shape or form such as its physical, social and economic element.

He then continues to expand his essay by pointing out evidence on why he can consider some people poor or living a deprived life. Specific details are mentioned when he describes what he observed in the community. These specific observations are helpful for the readers since this is Swift giving them a visual element about his argument. He says this in a form of storytelling as if he is reliving the moment when he saw the children on the streets.

In addition to his rhetorical strategies, he uses statistical data as a way of giving his credibility a boost. In the article, Swift concludes “that of the hundred and twenty thousand children, already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed.” This is written in order for his readers or audience to trust him and rely on his words. When numbers, graphs and charts are being laid out, these make the readers think that the article or essay is said to be reliable because of the given data.

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It can be considered that involving controversial issues is sort of a strategy to indirectly tell the readers that the author is out there being involved in the society. Swift advocates that his idea is an advantage since it will reduce the abortions being done by mothers who cannot afford to have a child to feed and provide for. This could be a little ironic because he promotes the idea that aborting or killing a child is a negative component in the society. On the other hand, his theory involves eating children which can be classified as abortion as well since it implies killing babies which killing can be defined as taking someone’s life.

In support of his suggestion, he adds conditions or the preferred qualifications of the babies who are going up for sale. This is considered as a strategy because people will tend to think about their options, as well as the pros and cons if they will be willing to participate in the said proposition. Some of the qualifications that are mentioned are first, children who are above twelve years of age are not applicable. Second, he included a weight limit which children of the same age range who exceed three pounds will be prohibited.

Another strategy that can easily catch someone’s attention when reading the essay is the evident use of his findings or research. Swift states “I have already computed the charge of nursing a beggar’s child to be about two shillings per annum.” He spends so much time in this area that it is also the major component of his paper. He talks about how he already computed such data that are going to be relevant to his purpose. He provides plenty of information on how things will work, who will benefit, what will be deducted, what will be added, and the list goes on. This represents his attitude towards the concept that he is introducing. This is going to show the readers that he is actually serious about implementing this kind of activity.

Swift uses irony towards the end as his own way of telling or more likely daring anyone from his country to come up with a better solution than his. He is eager to have his “modest” proposal approved, for the main reason that his wife had already been through the birth-giving stage. His wife does not have the ability to reproduce anymore and lastly, Swift’s children have grown already which makes them ineligible for Swift’s theory. Overall, Swift’s written proposition has many different elements wherein people or readers will try to analyze whether he is serious about implementing such activity. Because of the exaggerated and out-of-the-ordinary baby-eating, it will be significantly difficult to tell. In addition to that, Swift achieves providing data and different solutions to convince his countrymen that this is the answer to their never-ending poverty and it will succeed without a doubt.

Works Cited

  1. Swift, Jonathan, 1667-1745. “A Modest Proposal”. Champaign, Ill.: Boulder, Colo.: Project Gutenberg; NetLibrary, 19901999.
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Human Being for A Living: Critical Analysis of the Main Idea of A Modest Proposal. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 25, 2024, from
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