Dismissing Legitimate Solutions in Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal"
Jessica Grose, English 171 Brown University, Autumn 2003
The following passage from Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" dismisses legitimate possible solutions to alleviate the poverty in Ireland. This section is a shift from the rest of the essay, which ironically discusses the option of selling and eating the children of beggars in a free market attempt to take care of Irish youth living in destitution.
Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: Of taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound: Of using neither cloaths, nor houshold furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture: Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury: Of curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women: Of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance: Of learning to love our country, wherein we differ even from Laplanders, and the inhabitants of Topinamboo: Of quitting our animosities and factions, nor acting any longer like the Jews, who were murdering one another at the very moment their city was taken: Of being a little cautious not to sell our country and consciences for nothing: Of teaching landlords to have at least one degree of mercy towards their tenants.
1. Why does Swift use the repetition of grammar and syntax (i.e. using a colon, and then "Of taxing...", "Of using...", "Of quitting...", etc.) to discuss poverty solving options beyond cannibalism? Is this similar to the kind of syntax and grammar Swift uses in the rest of the essay?
2. In other parts of the essay, Swift makes swipes at other religious sects, particularly the Catholics. Does he believe in "quitting our animosities and factions" or is this meant to be tongue and cheek like much of the rest of the essay?
3. Is Swift patriotic? How would you define his feelings towards Ireland?
4. Does Swift blame women more for poverty (monetary and otherwise) than he blames men?
Last modified 6 September 2003