The Essay “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift

Pages: 1
Words: 293

The satire of “A Modest Proposal” stems significantly from the vast disparity between the speaker’s calm and reasonable voice and the evident obnoxiousness of his proposal. The poor’s young infants are raised as livestock, butchered, and given to the wealthy, who devoured them as a delightful treat. Swift uses irony to provide a satirical answer to Ireland’s troubles. Swift proposes that the only way to preserve Ireland from overcrowding and misery is to murder the newborns of impoverished families and feed them to Ireland’s royalty.

“I am assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London; that a young, healthy child, well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food; whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled, and I make no doubt, that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or ragout” (Black et al., 2012, p. 524).

Swift bases the gastronomical aspect of his satirical proposal that the people of Ireland devour their children in this quotation. The premise is outlandish that it highlights the essay’s overarching absurdity. Swift introduces this concept in the most alarming way imaginable, claiming that one-year-old newborns are great when “stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled” (Black et al., 2012, p. 524). The thought of a newborn in a stir fry or gratin is both terrifying and ludicrous. Essentially, this statement appears near the end of the piece. Swift mesmerizes the audience into a misleading feeling of faith in the narrator’s positive motives by starting with observations of the poor’s situation in Ireland. The readers may initially believe that this is a scientific statement, which makes the argument startling when it finally comes. The concept originates from a very knowledgeable American, and it alludes to the untamed savagery of the American colonies.


Black, J., Connolly, L., Flint, K., Grundy, I., LePan, D., Liuzza, R., Prescott, A. L., Qualls, B., &Waters, C. (2012). The Broadview anthology of British literature: Volume 3, the restoration and the eighteenth century (2nd ed.). Broadview Press.