Outlining a satirical argument
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Outlining a Satirical Argument. The Assignment. You are not writing an essay for this assignment. Instead you are going to develop a detailed outline for an essay you might write in the future.  Your satirical essay should be modeled after “A Modest Proposal“ so it must include the following:

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The assignment
The Assignment

  • You are not writing an essay for this assignment. Instead you are going to develop a detailed outline for an essay you might write in the future. 

  • Your satirical essay should be modeled after “A Modest Proposal“ so it must include the following:

    • Identification of the issue

    • A mock solution that demonstrates even more intensely the problem

    • At least three ridiculous reasons why the solution will work

    • A conclusion that brings home the message you want to send.

    • Humor

Identification of the issue
Identification of the Issue

  • What is Swift’s issue?

    • Swift identifies the issues of economic troubles in Ireland

  • Your essay should identify some social issue

    • This can be a global, national, or local issue. It could even be a school issue.

    • The issue should be realistic – it is your solution that will be over the top or ironic

A mock solution
A Mock Solution

  • What is Swift’s mock solution?

    • He proposes the eating of babies to provide food and also to provide income for families

    • He is NOT actually suggesting that people do this

    • He is speaking ironically, meaning that he is saying the opposite of what he means

    • His real solution comes later, when he derides, or scorns, the ideas of taxation, mercy, and honesty

  • How can you do this?

    • Suggest a solution that is so over the top, so ridiculous, that no one would ever agree to it

    • Then, when you imply your true solution, people will be able to see the sense in it in contrast with your mock solution

Mock solution example
Mock Solution - Example

  • Problem: Teenagers are overweight

  • Mock Solution: Remove all food from the cafeteria and serve only water. Have required gym classes before and after school and between classes. Use cameras to monitor food intake at home.

  • Real solution: Teach moderation and good exercise habits. Present healthy food choices at school and encourage them at home.

Three ridiculous reasons
Three Ridiculous Reasons

  • This is where you explain your solution – how and why it will work

  • Swift explains:

    • How a baby can be raised for a year on little money, and then sold for a profit and eaten

    • Explains how skin can be used to make gloves and shoes

    • How the elderly and ill are not a problem because they are dying anyway

Tools of satire
Tools of Satire

  • Only serving water and not food

    • Irony: It is known that if you skip meals and don’t eat, the body goes into survival mode, and it is actually more difficult to lose weight

  • Extra gym classes

    • Irony: Exercising so much will make students hungrier.

  • Cameras at home:

    • Sarcasm: “What parents would mind the invasion of privacy if it helps their child?” This is the opposite of what most parents would think.

Tools of satire1
Tools of Satire

  • Hyperbole: Exaggerating to make a point. “The amount of trash generated by my family alone could fill the Hudson Bay in just over a year. “

  • Understatement : Down playing or minimizing a situation. “Pollution isn’t really a problem.  In the future we might build beautiful homes out of tin cans and cardboard. “

  • Oxymoron: Juxtaposing two unlike terms. “You can only recycle your clean trash.”

A conclusion
A Conclusion

  • Write a paragraph where you describe the ACTUAL solution you intend to be implemented. This will not be the solution you suggest in your proposal above. This is the real solution. It is realistic, not ridiculous, not ironic, not over the top.

A conclusion1
A Conclusion

  • Swift says:

    • “Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: Of taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound: Of using neither clothes, nor household 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 … 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.”

A conclusion2
A Conclusion

  • Note:

    • Swift says not to speak to him of these things until there is hope that someone will sincerely attempt to put them into practice. This is our clue that this is his real solution.

    • He proposes reducing reliance on material goods and imports, and taxing the wealthy to provide for the poor. These are realistic solutions that would actually solve the problem.

A conclusion3
A Conclusion

  • On the topic of overweight teens

    • Teenagers should be taught about a healthy lifestyle – not fad diets, but eating healthy balanced diets and exercising regularly. The school will offer healthy choices and reasonable portion sizes in the cafeteria. Students will be encouraged to transfer these habits to their home life.


  • Humor should come naturally through the tools of satire.

  • If you use elements such as hyperbole, sarcasm and irony, the humor will be present in those elements.