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Jonathan Swift, according to the Norton Reader, was born in 1667 and passed away in 1745. He was born in Ireland to parents of the English heritage and studied at Trinity College in Dublin. After graduating from college he moved to London where he began to get more involved in literacy and politics. It was in London where he launched off his career and become an “Anglo-Irish poet, satirist, and cleric” (1164).
Also in the textbook, the editors explain that over the years, Swift supported different political groups and would write and distribute works to help support these parties.
Later on after receiving a master’s degree at Oxford University, he was appointed dean at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin (1164). He is well-known for how he attacked the practice of extremism and anyone who was anti-Irish through his stories.
He wrote several stories, some of them including, “A Modest Proposal” and Gulliver’s Travels being his most famous (1164). Barbara Bengels wrote an analysis on Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” and mostly discusses how the use of clothing helps drive Swift’s purpose to his readers.
She points out that by the reoccurring referencing to clothing Swift is capable of exploiting Ireland’s unstable economy and government along with bringing up the social issue on poverty and the financial burden that children can have on a family.
Through the use of several different sources, including other works by Jonathan Swift, Bengels is able to support her view on the topic and shows that Swift has attempted to use clothing as an extended metaphor to these social matters and able to use it to its fullest potential in this proposal.
Clothing vs. Meat In Barbara Bengels’ “Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal’,”she discusses her interpretation of the original work written by Jonathan Swift, “A Modest Proposal”. Throughout her passage, she emphasizes on the importance of using the children’s skin as a supplement for families to have articles of clothing instead of just wearing rags when she states, “A most recurrent and vicious pattern of imagery through the seemingly harmless vehicle of clothing,” (Bengels 13).
Bengels also incorporates other sources to help support her idea of the importance of clothing during this needy time in Ireland. Even though taking the skin right off the backs of children is mentioned throughout Swift’s short story, it is not the main solution that he is trying to entail to his audience. I believe that the main solution to help end poverty that Swift was trying to propose through his short story was the breeding and selling of the children to more fortunate families as a supplement meal for that night.
By the mothers only having to care for the child for the first year, the child will not be as much of a financial burden compared to if they had to take care of them for their entire life. In the end, the child will actually bring a profit to the struggling family. Yes, by using the child’s skin to make clothing it will help bring in more income, but the real money maker Jonathan Swift is trying to point out is the meat of the child. Swift uses this as another extended metaphor as the use of satire in attempt to describe on horrible the situation on poverty has become throughout society.
Throughout her interpretation, Bengels also discusses the verbal irony of the use of clothing throughout Swift’s proposal and how Swift is trying to compare it to the reality of everyday life in Ireland. She analyzes that Swift is using clothing to display how Ireland’s economic state is slowly declining and how citizens within the city have to turn to rags as their articles of clothing because the city does not have the capability of producing their own manufactured goods (Bengels 14).
I agree with this statement that Swift is trying to bring reality back into the world and shed light on the social issues that are occurring all around them. I believe that, through the use of verbal irony, Swift is trying to bring justice and an end to poverty, but in order to do this, he has to use an extreme route to grasp the attention and receive a reaction from his readers. So, in order to accomplish this task, he proposes the possible solution of just selling off the burden themselves, the child, and receive an income off of their skin and meat.
Bengels later on discusses that she believes that the main purpose for Swift using this proposal was to “[dress] down his reader, chastising his inhumanity while cloaking his remarks, as always, behind a mask of feigned sincerity,” (Bengels 15). I have come to disagree with Bengels belief due to my own interpretation. In the short story, Swift discusses several resolutions that will come about if his proposal were to be enforced and be successful.
He states that if the child were to be sold off after the first year, it will bring a profit to the family which they can either use for their own personal satisfaction or it can help contribute to taking care of the next child. Swift also believes that by executing his proposal, that the number of voluntary abortions will decline, husbands, if present, will actually see his wife and child as an asset to the family instead of a burden and not physically abuse them, and it will help prevent overpopulation within the cities while also declining the rate for future crimes and poverty, (Swift 794).
Through this, Swift is trying to call attention to the reality that overpopulation and famine are creating horrible situations for families and it needs to be addressed in a civilized manner by society and the government. Bengels’ interpretation is one of many and mostly focuses on the clothing aspect of Swift’s proposal while my interpretation was mainly based off of the breeding and selling of the child for the use of their meat. Both interpretations do agree that Swift was trying to bring social justice to families who were living in poverty, but disagree on the actual reasoning of the purpose of why he wrote it. I believe he wrote it to bring the constant battle over poverty to an end by familiarizing society of the reality of these poor, homeless families.
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