“A Modest Proposal” is a strongly written satire by Jonathon Swift. In the essay, Swift applies nearly all of the elements of satire. Some of the most obvious elements are his use of creating a persona and his exaggeration. Beginning by analyzing the title, “A Modest Proposal 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”, it is a reasonable topic for the essay. However it is not at all modest. Swift absurdly creates suggestions to make the poor children beneficial.
His primary goal in this essay is to shame the English, bring up the issues of poverty and motivate the Irish. First of all, the persona that Swift creates is a well intended statistician or economist. There is a repetition of the use of words such as “computation”. This develops the statistician characteristics of the persona formed. These words refer to math equations and collecting statistics. Also there is a use of formal diction such as “it is agreed by all parties”. This develops the tone in which the persona is speaking.
It gives a more political aspect of the persona; these words would usually be found in political debates, political speeches, etc. The intentions of the author can be found in the title of the essay itself, “Preventing…from Being a Burden…Making Them Beneficial”. This is misleading yet literally correct. The persona is well intended, giving a proposal to solve the issue of poverty even though it is not very humane. The persona created is strongly developed and defined. The use of exaggeration exemplifies the author’s intent of showing how poorly the English treated the Irish.
An example of exaggeration is, “a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, weather stewed, roasted, baked, or broiled…”. Here, Swift is comparing the Irish to food. There are so many Irish people in poverty that are mistreated that they should just become one very delicious meal for the British. Another example is, “Those who are more thrifty (as I must confess the times require) may flay the carcass; the skin of which, artificially dressed, will make admirable gloves for ladies, and summer boots for fine gentlemen. ”.
The Irish people are, in this quote, being compared to animals which are skinned and used as gloves or boots. The word “thrifty” suggests that they are simply going to be a commodity. A final example of exaggeration is, “I have reckoned upon a medium, that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds, and in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, increaseth to 28 pounds . ”. There is no possible way that a woman could give birth to a child 28 pounds, even 12 pounds is a big baby. Here, Swift is using this exaggeration to emphasize the thought that the babies of the people in poverty will serve as a really great food source.
These are barely a few examples of the exaggerations used; the whole essay is primarily composed of exaggerations. The reason that Jonathon Swift creates this persona and uses these exaggerations is to deal with a devastatingly difficult issue to solve by using satirical devices. Swift did in fact use nearly all the satirical devices; however, in this essay only two of them are described. The issue of poverty is a very complex issue to solve. And the only way that Swift could solve this issue was to provide absurd exaggerations.