Swift\'s "A Modest Proposal"

In his lengthy literary career, Jonathan Swift wrote many stories that
used a broad range of voices that were used to make some compelling
personal statements. For example, Swifts, A Modest Proposal, is often
heralded as his best use of both sarcasm and irony. Yet taking into
account the persona of Swift, as well as the period in which it was
written, one can prove that through that same use of sarcasm and irony,
this proposal is actually written to entertain the upper-class. Therefore
the true irony in this story lies not in the analyzation of minute details
in the story, but rather in the context of the story as it is written.
One of the voices that is present throughout the story is that of
irony. The story itself is ironic since no one can take Swifts proposal
seriously. This irony is clearly demonstrated at the end of the story;
Swift makes it clear that this proposal would not affect him since his
children were grown and his wife unable to have any more children. It
would be rather absurd to think that a rational man would want to both
propose this and partake in the eating of another human being. Therefore,
before an analyzation can continue, one has to make the assumption that
this is strictly a fictional work and Swift had no intention of pursuing
his proposal any further.
One of the other voices that is present throughout the entire
story is that of sarcasm. In order to understand this further, a reader
has to comprehend that Swift, becoming infamous after Gullivers Travels,
was a member of the upper-class. Right from the first paragraph Swift
attempts to fool his readers by the sarcasm of the dreary scene that Swift
presents. For example, he mentions that it is a melancholy sight to see
beggars and their children on the street. The sarcastic paradox in this
statement is whether it is a melancholy object for him, having to see
homeless people every day, or for the beggars lifestyle? Upon first
reading this one may be led to believe that Swift is a compassionate
writer attempting to feel the pain of the beggars. But as the story
continues, a reader can look back and note that he is using a sarcastic
tone and the only sad sight that he sees is the fact that people of his
status have to deal with commoners. It is a good combination that makes
the reader think twice about any other statements, and the voice used,
after the first paragraph.
This leads to the underlying statements that appear throughout the
story. It is quite clear that Swift has strong feelings of resentment,
bordering on hate, for the poor people that wonder the street. For
example, he tries to qualify his proposal by saying, "it is very well
known that they are dying, and rotting , by cold and famine, and filth,
and vermin . . . they cannot get work and consequently pine away for want
of nourish.". Once a reader understands this, they can see the true
purpose of his proposal. He wants to lower the population of beggars in
his country, so what better way to do it than by putting an end to the
younger generation of beggars? This is also proven since throughout the
story he only mentions that the upper-class of society would be able to
purchase the sacrificial children. The upper-class would also take the
carcasses and use them to, "make admirable gloves for ladies summer boots
for fine gentlemen.". Also, when he makes his calculations as to how
many children would be available for sale, he never takes into account the
children from the rich families. In short, Swifts message is that rich
children serve a purpose, the advancement of Ireland, while poor children
are nothing but a burden to the republic.
One other clear indication that Swift was motivated by his hatred
for the poor is the list of six reasons that he write to qualify his
proposal. In the third statement, Swift explains how by buying the
children and then selling them to their friends, the upper-class can keep
on thriving. This was a plan to get themselves even more rich, as Swift
states, "the money will circulate among ourselves, the goods being
entirely of our own growth and manufacture.". Secondly, he also compares
this type of meal to that of eating a pig. He elaborates by naming a
variety of ways that you can cook the child, use if for bacon, or to make
clothing.He never once mentions what the poor people