Shock in Swift's Modest Proposal Term Paper

Total Length: 862 words ( 3 double-spaced pages)

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Jonathan Swift's "A Modest proposal" is a satirical work that draws the reader in, defining and describing a social problem of poor families with children they are unable to feed. The surprise is not revealed at the end, but part the way through the work, where the suggestion of cannibalism is made. Swift suggests that a solution which will help alleviate poverty and the strain placed on families to feed growing children and to create a scenario in which poor children can become economically beneficial (Swift, 1729). The idea was to sell children at the age of one year, to provide food for the wealthy. The age of one year was chosen as the cost of feeding a child in the first twelve months was estimated at being very low, and Swift also states he was assured that at the age of one year a child would be "most delicious nourishing and wholesome food" (Swift, 1729).

The suggestion is a shock; the problem addressed is very real, it is true that there were many people living in poverty who have a large number of children. The introduction does not indicate what the shocking solution would be, but even after it is revealed, the tone of the article remains the same and there is the application of logic to the suggestion, demonstrating how and why it is a good idea and may be seen as providing a solution to a problem.
The suggestion is not presented as a general solution; the argument becomes persuasive in the way logic is applied to the issue. The cost of raising the child is considered, and the time taken until they will be able to create an economic return is used to show that children are uneconomic. During their first year of life it is argued their cost is low, and as such they may be supported during that period (Swift, 1729). Indeed, the more they feed and the fatter they get, the greater the potential benefit if they are used for food, indicating that they will provide more meat (Swift, 1729). The use of babies in this way will ensure that they are creating economic value, their bodies will fetch a price, and there will not be the need to feed the children used in this way. Swift argues that the cost of raising the child would be approximately 2 shillings, including rags, but that 10 shillings may be gained for a good carcass (Swift, 1729). It is even suggested that the skin may be used for gloves or boots, which would increase the value….....

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