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A Modest Proposal. By: Jonathan Swift. Jonathan Swift. Anglo-Irish cleric and Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin Preferred living in England Resented harsh British policy with the Irish Supported Irish causes. Jonathan Swift Biography Video. Conditions in Ireland.

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a modest proposal

A Modest Proposal

By: Jonathan Swift

jonathan swift
Jonathan Swift
  • Anglo-Irish cleric and Dean of

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin

  • Preferred living in England
  • Resented harsh British policy with

the Irish

  • Supported Irish causes

Jonathan Swift Biography Video

conditions in ireland
Conditions in Ireland
  • In 1718 the Archbishop of Dublin wrote to a friend, “The misery of the people here is very great, the beggars innumerable and increasing every day…One half of the people in Ireland eat neither bread nor flesh for one half a year, nor wear shoes or stockings; Your hoggs of England and Essex calves lie and live better than they” (Conditions in Early Eighteenth-Century Ireland).
  • Conditions were much the same in 1729 when Swift published a “Modest Proposal”
what is a modest proposal
What is a “Modest Proposal ?”
  • Satire about how the Irish could ease economic hardship
  • Lampooning William Petty(English economist, philosopher, and scientist) who surveyed the land and then gave it to Cromwell’s soldiers
  • Lampooning Francis Bacon (English philosopher, statesman and scientist) who created empiricism (scientific method)
  • Lampooning American George Psalmanazar who had claimed to be from Taiwan. Fooled the English until 1706. He wrote a book about the religious practices of people from Formasa (Taiwan)
literary devices
Literary Devices
  • Satire- used in many works of literature to show foolishness or vice in humans, organizations, or even governments
    • It uses sarcasm, ridicule, or irony. For example, satire is often used to effect political or social change, or to prevent it.
    • Irony-the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning: the irony of her reply, “How nice!” when I said I had to work all weekend.
  • Satire can be used in a part of a work or it can be used throughout an entire work.
  • The Many Faces of Satire
    • A satirist can direct the satire toward one individual, a whole country or even the world. It is sometimes serious, acting as a protest or to expose, or it can be comical when used to poke fun at something or someone.
swift s modest proposal
Swift’s Modest Proposal
  • Swift begins by using vivid imagery to describe the poverty of people in Ireland.
  • Swift presents this sympathetically but sets out facts and details, showing that there is a “surplus” of children who cannot be fed.
  • Swift uses rhetorical (persuasive) devices through the use of a persona/speaker, doing the following:

a. suggests solutions for the problem

b. describes how the solution will benefit society

c. addresses opposing points of view

d. explains why his solution is the best.

Rhetoric Review
  • Rhetoric is the art of persuasion.
  • The speaker or writer communicates in order to bring about a change in the listener or reader’s thinking and/or actions.
rhetorical appeals
Rhetorical Appeals

1. LOGICAL APPEALS (Logos) use evidence such as facts or statistics to support a position.

2. EMOTIONAL APPEALS (Pathos) use words that arouse strong feelings such as fear, hatred, shame, love, etc.


a. Relies on shared moral values (sense of right, justice, and virtue)

b. Convinces with appeal to personal or group authority

swift s rhetorical style
Swift’s Rhetorical Style
  • Created so we detest the speaker and pity the Irish
  • Two opposing points of view created
  • Uses language of animals with people
modest proposal video
Modest Proposal Video

Modest Proposal Video Link

when reading a modest proposal
When reading “A Modest Proposal”…
  • Remember this is a satire! What is the real message Swift is trying to send?
  • Who is Swift’s audience?
  • What impact did this have? Any?
  • What image of Swift and/or the speaker emerges after reading “A Modest Proposal?”
  • Is Swift’s message clear and worthwhile?
  • Does the work show a balance of reason (logos) and emotion (pathos)?