A Modest Proposal is everything that a satirical story should be.
It includes sarcasm and irony as Jonathan Swift takes us through a roller
coaster ride to show us how the poor are treated miserably.
The narrator begins by leading us down a path. He seems sincere
and thinks it is a pity how everywhere you walk in the streets of Dublin
you see the poor begging people for hand outs. He is seeking a solution to
He appears to be a logical, educated person who makes it clear that
he has been studying this subject for years. He then tells us that he has
a solution to help the babies whose parents cannot afford them. We think
his idea will be charitable and will actually help the poor as well as the
The narrator then does something that I think set the tone for the
rest of the story. He referred to a baby just born as being dropped from
its dam.Animals are dropped from dams, not humans. Therefore poor
people in this story are nothing more than animals.
We are told how the children are a burden and how instead of
requiring food and clothing the rest of their lives, they will contribute
to the feeding and clothing of many people. Any intelligent person would
assume he intends to put them in factories or farms to work and not be on
the streets begging for food. We are also told that his plan will prevent
voluntary abortions and women murdering their bastard babies.
The narrator shows the reader he is serious by producing
calculations that appear to be well thought-out and then showing us,
through examples, That these children have no future.
Up to this point the narrator appears to be intelligent. He is
from the upper class and has low morals. He thinks lowly about the poor
but has made several logical assumptions and observations. He has us all
wondering what his proposal will be.
He then tells us that a young healthy child at a year old is a most
delicious, nourishing and wholesome food. The first thing that went
through everyone’s mind is that this man is crazy. Cannibalism? That is
disgusting. Yet he continues on as if he said something completely
rational and sane. According to his proposal, twenty thousand children may
be reserved for breeding which is more than they allow to sheep, black
cattle and swine. He is comparing humans to animals again. The rest,
being one hundred thousand being sold to persons of quality and fortune.
Persons of quality? What kind of person eats a baby? He is even going as
far as to tell us to advise the mothers to let their babies suck
plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump and fat for a
good table. That is revolting. He is just plain mad. That is the effect
I think Jonathan Swift wanted to grab our attention and make us listen to
him. That is when the satire starts to unfold and that is when he drops
on us.”I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very
proper for landlords, who as they have already devoured most of the parents,
seem to have the best title to the children.” He is telling us we already
have cannibalism. The landlords are cruel and inhuman. The landlords have
already taken so much from the families, why not give them the babies as
It takes approximately two shillings annually to nurse a child,
rags included. The children did not even wear clothes because they could
not afford them. They wore whatever was cheap and whatever they could find
and no gentleman would repine to give ten shillings for the carcass of a
good fat child. There is more satire here. What kind of gentleman eats a
child? The narrator goes on to tell us that he will be a good landlord and
grow popular among his tenants. There is some more satire presented to us.
The people will like the landlords for two reasons. One being that they
will be getting rid of their babies which they cannot afford. I do not
think the people will rejoice at having their babies eaten by their
The narrator spoke to a worthy person, a true lover of his country,
who offered a refinement upon his scheme. He told him that the want of
venison might well be supplied by the bodies of young lads and maidens
between the ages of twelve and fourteen. To hunt humans as if they are
game only because they are poor. His friend is not patriotic. His friend
is a cannibal. I think irony is being used to describe him. Satire is
being used when he tells us that some scrupulous people might be apt to
censure such a practice, although unjustly, as a little bordering on
cruelty. It is more likely that almost everyone would censure such a
The advantages to his proposal are obvious and many as well of the
highest importance. All his proposals are satirical, some even revolting.
The poorer tenants will have something valuable of their own, which by law
may be liable to distress, and help to pay the landlord’s rent. Once again
he refers to the land lords. Not only will they sell their babies to them
but if they do not pay their rent, the landlords can take their babies.
The babies are being used as a commodity and not even considered human.
Another advantage according to him is the taverns will profit from a new
dish that will be introduced to gentlemen. People who eat babies have
refinement and taste? He even refers to them as gentlemen. People who are
reading this proposal realize at this point that only the rich will benefit
The narrator then lists several other satirical advantages. It
would increase the care of mothers towards their children? We should see
an honest emulation among women? The mothers are made out to be beasts.
No mother would sell her child to be eaten at any price and I doubt very
much that it will encourage marriage. People will not marry and produce
“Men would become as fond of their wives, during the time of their
pregnancy, as they are now of their mares in foal, their cows in calf, or
sows when they are ready to farrow, nor offer to beat or kick them.” Once
again the poor are being compared to animals and I doubt men will take
better care of their wives if they will sell the baby eventually.
There were some calculations made that caught my attention. These
calculations are somewhat disgusting as well as satirical. Families would
be consumers of infant flesh at merry meetings, particularly weddings and
christenings. We are told that families will celebrate the introduction of
a family and a christening of a child by eating some poor person’s baby.
The narrator then lists several ideas that could be used as a
remedy. Possibly to try to make his proposal seem sane. His ten proposals
are not erratic. They are modest but far to radical for the rich people.
They would never allow these ideas to be put into use.
The babies are then being referred to as useless mouths and backs
to clothe and their parents as creatures in human figures. The narrator
does not even consider them to be human. According to him, they look like
people but do not live like people. The narrator even goes as far as
saying the parents should be asked if they would have preferred to have
been sold for food at a year old. Who in their right mind would want to be
eaten? Yet he tells us that the parents would have been in favor of it.
The narrator commented on how he has no other motive than the
public good for his country but his country does not include everybody.
Only the rich and those who can take care and support themselves.
I think that Jonathan Swift tried to show how terrible the poor
were treated. Everyone was to busy to help them. He compared them to
animals and referred to them as creatures. I think he did this to show
where their society was heading. The rich simply did not care about what
happened to the poor and they were literally eating them out of house and
home. Jonathan Swift wrote this satirical essay so the people would at
least acknowledge that they had a problem. It is to be hoped that enough
people read his essay and tried to make a difference.