Rhetorical Notes on “A Modest Proposal”
A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift Johnathan Swift writes this satirical proposal to “prevent the children of poor people in Ireland from being a burden to their parents or the country” and to make them “beneficial to the public”. Johnathan begins this proposal with a paragraph using violent and negative diction, using words such as “beg”, “forced”, “fight”, “thieves”, “helpless”. Because of the alarming and intriguing nature of these words, this negative/violent diction appeals to the reader’s emotions and makes us interested in reading the rest of the proposal. “I think it is agreed by all the parties” a hasty generalization. “fair, cheap, and easy” three words that are very appealing to humans from any country, but it is satirical because it is not a fair, cheap, and easy thing to do, eating babies. “professed beggar” is something that is used many times in this passage. it is a sort of oxymoron because beggars only beg because they do not have a profession. this reminds the reader that beggars do make money as well. “demand our charity” charity isn’t something that is normally demanded.
Swift uses these two words together to make it seem like the government of ireland sees the begging as “demanding”.”having turned my thoughts for many years upon this important subject” this is very ironic, because he had been thinking about a solution to this problem for “many years”, and finally decides on eating babies, out of every other possible solution. this is where the humor begins in this proposal, given through the irony. johnathan swift compares a mother, who has just given birth to a child, to a “dam”, saying that the child “may be supported by her milk for a solar year”. this is intended to show how the government sees the people of Ireland equal to animals.again, johnathan swift portrays begging as a profession, saying “lawful occupation of begging”, a very humorous and satirical phrase. begging is not an actual occupation. people beg because they don’t have occupations. “feeding and partly to the clothing”.
Johnathan Swift begins introducing the idea and main point of his proposal: eating babies and using their skin for clothing. in the second paragraph on the second page he uses violent diction once again with words like “abortions”, “horrid”, “murdering”, “bastard”, “tears”, “pity”, “savage”, “inhuman” to appeal to the reader’s emotion.