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A Modest Proposal


Historical Background | A Modest Proposal | The Biography of Jonathan Swift | Historical Analysis | Evaluation | Bibliography | Links

Jonathan Swift's well known essay (a composition in which the writer attempts to persuade the reader to accept his personal opinion), A Modest Proposal is a scathing attack on the economic oppression of the Irish by the English. During Swift's lifetime tremendous suffering was caused by English practices in Ireland. Basically, absentee landlords and British politicians made policies in Ireland without seeing their devastating effects.

In a reasonable, frighteningly rational tone, the narrator of A Modest Proposal advocates cannibalism. He condemns the English for being inhumane, the Irish for being passive, the speaker for being morally blind, and the reader for accepting intolerable situations in the world around us, especially when we don't come into immediate contact with the situations ourselves.

It is important to note how this work makes us feel and to consider why. One reason may be because we see some similarities between the situation Swift describes and our world today. Another reason may be this very effective work does remind us of how indifferent or apathetic we often are to the problems of others. There are other reasons for the discomfort A Modest Proposal may cause; what are some?