A Modest Proposal: An Essay About an Essay
Jonathon Swifts A Modest Proposal is one of the most renowned satire essays in the world. In 1729, Ireland suffered economically. At the time, English landlords charged the rent so high, that Irish families could not afford it and were on the edge of starvation. Swift proposed that Irish couples should sell their babies as food to the more wealthy families. Swift believed selling infants as food would help Ireland economically. He supports his thesis by using metaphors, shocking statistic and cause and effect. This point is also supported through an inductive argument. Swift also supports his thesis by using an alliteration and a metaphor to state the different uses a baby has when they are bought.
Swift supports his thesis by using a metaphor, shocking statistic, and cause and effect. When Swift states It is true, a child just dropped from its dam may be supported by her milk for a solar year, with little other nourishment, at most not above the value of 2s (Swift, 2), he uses a metaphor comparing a womans womb to a dam. He is also stating that newborn babies can live off of their mothers milk for one year with little other nourishment. Swift then follows up with a shocking statistic stating that out of two hundred thousand babies born in Ireland, one hundred and twenty thousand of those children have poor parents who are unable to support them. (Swift, 2). Swift finishes this thought by stating:
I have already computed the charge of nursing a beggars child (in which list I reckon all cottagers, labourers, and four-fifths of the farmers) to be about two shillings for the carcass of a good fat child, which as I have said, will make four dishes of excellent nutritive meat... the mother will have eight shillings net profit, and be fit for work till she produces another child. (Swift, 3-4)
He uses cause and effect to directly link the first two thoughts which were that babies can survive off of their mothers milk for a year and that 120,000 out of 200,000 couples are not able to support their children. Swift effectively supports his thesis through the use of inductive argument by first stating two facts, then coming up with a conclusion directly relating to the two facts.
Swift proposed the idea of selling babies after a year they were born to be used as food and also for apparel. .. a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked or boiled. (Swift, 3) In this statement, Swift uses analliteration with the words baked and boiled to emphasis his proposal that babies should be sold as food. Swift then says I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents... (Swift, 3) Here, Swift uses a metaphor by comparing the landlords to savages. The English landlords made the price for shelter so ridiculously high that Irish families are suffering financially since the English landlords are devouring all of their money. Swift states; the skin of which artificially dressed will make admirable glove for ladies and summer boots for fine gentlemen. (Swift, 4)
I personally think that Swift effectively used various rhetorical devices in order to support his thesis. His satirical essay was quite entertaining to read, and I enjoy the fact that he the focal point of the essay is to draw attention to how bad things have gotten for Ireland economically. Swifts use of rhetorical devices helps the reader better understand the situation and what he wants to do to solve the problem.