Irony in A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
This paper shows how the author of the book utilizes irony as a tool to make the absurd a possibility.
This paper describes how the author takes irony to the extreme. Rather than write a direct essay criticizing Ireland’s treatment of its poor, Swift realizes that irony and parody are much more effective tools. Consequently, he develops an absolutely absurd solution to Ireland’s poverty problem and bends reason to persuade his readers directly that his proposal that Ireland’s wealthy eat the poor babies is a possible one, and indirectly that Ireland’s treatment of the poor may as well be cannibalistic in its cruelty.
“This is arguably the most successful passage in the piece. In one fell swoop, Swift professes his sincerity in suggesting that eating babies would give pleasure to the rich and that Swift himself is exempt from this proposal. He does this by combining the reasoning device of sincerity discussed above with another example of lulling the reader into submission: the public good of the country, advancing the trade, providing for infants and relieving the poor are all worthy goals to attain. But Swift tacks on “giving some pleasure to the rich” to the end of that list, and as readers, we at first swallow that “benefit” as well, but on a double-take, realize that giving pleasure to the rich is not one of our duties, it just seems that it is given society’s ills.”
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