Swift's Satiric Target and National Identity
Michael Laws, English 171 Brown University, Autumn 2003
The last paragraphs of Swift’s proposal reveal his frustration over the futility of his previous calls for reform.
“Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like expedients, 'till he hath at least some glympse of hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice. But, as to my self, having been wearied out for many years with offering vain, idle, visionary thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success, I fortunately fell upon this proposal, which, as it is wholly new, so it hath something solid and real, of no expence and little trouble, full in our own power, and whereby we can incur no danger in disobliging England. For this kind of commodity will not bear exportation, and flesh being of too tender a consistence, to admit a long continuance in salt, although perhaps I could name a country, which would be glad to eat up our whole nation without it.”
1. Does Swift’s criticism of England bring him closer to his Irish readers?
2. How does Swift’s sense of identity (national and otherwise) progress in this passage?
3. Swift implies that a proposal that is “solid and real” should receive the same skepticism as one that is “of no expence and little trouble.” Do you agree?
4. Is Swift writing a sincere entreaty?
Last modified: 7 September 2003