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Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”: Response Essay

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Updated: Aug 25th, 2021

Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” commences with a comprehensive depiction of the dreadful poverty that was uncontrolled in Ireland during the early 1700s. Taking the posture of a detached and realistic economist, the narrator’s planned solution is to use children as a source, principally as food. Swift discussed the net profit the parents will make each year from selling their children.

The utilization of children will reduce the number of “papists who, according to Swift, were “most perilous enemies” and also the “principal breeders of the nation”. I find it sarcastic that the very people who the proposal is presume to help – poor Irish families – fall into both these groups. Ireland is a principally Roman Catholic country, and during the potato famine the only persons who weren’t poor were well-off English gentlemen or landowners. The logical conclusion is that if the suggestion was followed through, the immense majority of the Irish inhabitants would finish existing within a few generations, because no children would be left to grow up and have children of their own.

The “advantages” offered by Swift only states the similar idea: deprived people will be able to use their children as a resource. Swift has even premeditated the net profit to be 8 shillings for each child. Changed to US dollars, that would total to around $0.10. Even if we correct it for inflation, it is clear that this is a repulsively inadequate amount to survive on for even just a month, let alone a year.

Swift further stated that the country would be capable to save $50,000 in “maintenance” costs if 100,000 children were consumed each year. Orphaned and homeless children are looked after by the local parishes, so it would absolutely advantage the country to have additional revenue. Though, there is no reveal of what the government will do with that extra $50,000, or how it will advantage the poor in any manner. Based on Swift’s essay, the government has performed nothing to ease its citizens during the scarcity, so this is a hesitant advantage to the deprived at best.

The new dish will produce commerce for the taverns and attract all the well-off gentlemen there. Once again, this is one more point that does not benefit the Irish people in any manner, for who can have enough money to pay for this costly dish but the rich upper class, of which there were few Irish? This is yet an additional instance in which Swift tries to illustrate attention to the inequality between the social classes by showing how the upper classes, having exhausted the poor of all their money, are now accurately devouring their flesh and blood.

To conclude, it is clear that Swift’s “recompenses” do not make an extremely good case for his suggestion. They are unjustly prejudiced against the Irish, the very people the proposal was planned to help. His opinionated points are only disguised attacks on the higher class, the government, the English, and even the poor themselves. This is with determination done by Swift to exemplify the flaws in an arrangement that adheres to a severely logical way of dealing with economic and social problems and is also an evaluation on the unresponsiveness of the government and landlords toward the poor.

Works Cited

Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal for preventing the children of Ireland from being a burden to their parents or country“.

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IvyPanda. "Swift's "A Modest Proposal": Response." August 25, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/swifts-a-modest-proposal-response/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Swift's "A Modest Proposal": Response." August 25, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/swifts-a-modest-proposal-response/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Swift's "A Modest Proposal": Response'. 25 August.

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