An insight into the Meaning of "Modest Proposal"
Caroline Young '05.5, English 171,Sages, Satirists, and New Journalists, Brown University, Autumn 2003
The tone of Swift's "A Modest Proposal" is generally sarcastic, and there are very few places where we see truthful or honest commentary. This passage in particular shows a view about Ireland's relationship with England that, while still in a sarcastic tone, actually reflects true thoughts of Swift.
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.
The narrator says that he "fell upon" this proposal, indicating that it somehow just happened to him, in a passive way. What is the significance of the words "fell upon" and why would he want to portray his creation in this light?
What insight does this passage provide to the proposal as a whole? What is the significance of the metaphor used for England?
Why does he choose to show this insight only later in the piece?
Last modified 8 February 2005