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Literary Anaysis – A Modest Proposal

In “A Modest Proposal,” Jonathan Swift is poking fun at over population while also offering a solution. This relates to today because although not as dramatic, we are having an over population crisis as well. To learn that times were so rough in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it is ironic to think we have learned almost nothing. The same thing is seen on the streets today, “these mothers, instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants” (p. 388).It is alarming that hundreds of years have gone by and there is still no solution. Swift offers “after-birth” abortion satirically, but of course is shot down. Abortion today is continually debated by political figures as well as the common people just as it was in Swift’s time.

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Swift is a genius when it comes to satire and symbolism. When you read A Modest Proposal, the first few pages are so well thought out and written that the reader almost does not know Swift is not being serious about cannibalism. It is also takes a critical eye to see that he is using the wealthy English eating the poor Irish children as a symbol for England taking over Ireland in the social and economic classes.

In the world today, we are still having a population crisis. For instance, many countries in Asia are overcrowded and have to limit the number of children they can have. It is sad that so many children are starving and it is almost as if humans have learned nothing. If we could learn anything from the time period Swift was in, it should have been to not bring this problem on ourselves. Children begging and starving and stealing very well could have been prevented in the eighteenth century England and Ireland and most definitely can be prevented today. That is why I chuckle when I read Swift’s proposal. He really takes care of all the issues. Children no longer starve. Women can go back to work….


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