Jonathan Swifts, a Modest Proposal - Essay Sample

Published: 2024-01-11
Jonathan Swifts, a Modest Proposal - Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Jonathan Swift Childhood Social issue
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1336 words
12 min read


Jonathan Swift wrote the pamphlet a modest proposal for the poor's Irish children to stop them from being heavy loads to their guardians and the country. Instead, make them helpful to the parents and the nation. Most poor children lived in filthiness and degradation due to poverty because their families could not feed and clothe them. The author finds a solution to help the poor people make insufficient children nourishment to gain weight and then feed them to the rich people owning lands in Ireland. He suggested that the poor's children could be sold to the meat market at the age of one, hence overcoming overpopulation amongst the poor.

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In his book, Jonathan expects that selling poor children and eating them will help families such as the husbands will have more respect for their wives and parents will value their children since they do not know what will happen next to them. In the book, the families are told that they would be saved from the childbearing process and children's spending. The rich people are the people to blame for the state's condition; the country's economy has deteriorated dramatically. They do not help the poor hence there is an increase in unemployment in Ireland. The poor have nothing to offer to their families due to a lack of job opportunities.

Economic Figures

On the other hand, the Irish politicians are equally responsible for the situation of the people of Irish. The government does not help the poor when there is famine, and they cannot provide for their families (Tarsney, 323). Children are therefore forced to begin begging in the streets rather than becoming productive young members of society. Families were unable to fish due to starvation and lacked the energy needed to haul nets and drag boats to the shore. Jonathan does not know if the Irish practiced cannibalism during the famine as they had nothing to eat. Swifts describe that a worker was regarded as a commodity rather than a human being. They were seen as bring value to the nation, and they received low wages because they were seen to work less when paid high wages. There were no humane beliefs amongst people in Ireland, and children would work as there was no too young age to work. The suffering of the poor people is less important than their lower fitness on the economy as they are seen as economic figures in the eyes of the wealthy landowners. The poor Irish women sold themselves to engage in contractual slavery, and those in much need enlisted mercenaries in armies to avoid starvation.

Jonathan describes how people died due to famine, cold, dirt, and insects and animals that harmed them. The young men died due to starvation, and those that did find job died on the job from being too weak to work. The rich exploited their subjects for too long, leaving them with no strength to fight back. Jonathan perceived what was happening to the Irish people as a humanitarian crisis that needed a response, and people with power in Ireland did nothing to help the poor (Lowman, 70). He proposed that cannibalism should violate morality, enhance the extreme of the idea, and gain attention from the people of the Irish. Swifts wanted the citizens to think how far the inhumanity problems were adverse in their lives and ultimately affecting them, which were long ignored.

Low Incomers

While the healthy hoarded, the land and resources are wasted while the poor have no other choice than to beg in the streets to survive. Jonathan uses attire to impose a message to the Irish; he does not want them to sell their children rather understand they are human beings and deserve to be treated so by others. Swifts suggest that many wealthy friends would not care about the low incomers catholic population because of their religion. He remained respectful of the individual's religions and believed religion encouraged violent hatred between the rich and the poor. Swift, in a modest proposal, took extreme positions particularly to the wealthy Irish Protestants as many were his members.

Swift shows how England showed no concern for the poor in Ireland as they legally and economically exploited the poor Irish people. The English were buying all the land in Ireland. England had been controlling Ireland for a long time; the Stewarts established a Protestant governing hereditary ruling among the country's low incomers catholic population. Ireland continued to suffer under English trade restrictions massively and found its authority Parliament in Dublin. Swifts engaged in Irish politics and reacted to the injustices and exploitation Ireland faced at England's hand.

Jonathan Swifts blame the lack of jobs for workers and farmers in Ireland as to why people were stealing to survive. They lacked food to feed their families; hence robbery increased in Ireland. Swifts used satires in comparing children to animals, worth nothing than food and leather goods by stating that the amount one child would produce and using children's skin for fashion. The author further asserts that England would not mind if Ireland killed and feed on their babies to show how insensitive England would be seeing them eat their babies and of the poor (Tarsney, 324). He implies that his proposal would be accepted by everyone and not found offensive, only that his proposal involves the Irish feeding on their children. The proposal aimed at decreasing the population in Ireland. The food he proposes he says is prevalent for the rich landlords in Ireland as they figuratively ate greedily everything their parents owned already; hence they would take the children's meat. Rents of poor Irish families increased rapidly because of the greedy landowners. Farming was not an option as they were not allowed to build houses nor cultivate the land. The Irish agricultural industry decreased at a higher rate since the British restrictions on land would not allow anyone to cultivate hence low production.

The last paragraph of the modest proposal reaffirms to the Irish people that Jonathan is a loyal Irishman who only looked out for his country and its people. Jonathan Swifts concluded that the pamphlet would help many poor Irish solve Ireland's social, economic, and political problems. The poor will be treated with humane attitudes by the rich and politicians. Swift also wanted the England and Ireland enmity to end. The exploitation of Ireland's lands and legally utilizing Ireland by England was also expected to be over.

Solutions in a Modest Proposal

Jonathan Swifts acknowledged that some counteracts would help the poor Irish solve their problems from the modest proposal. One was taxing absentee landowners if they missed being present in the lands while the laborers were working. A healthy patriotism to Ireland would help the Irish abandon conflicts between factions and bitter internal conflicts. It would help Ireland's people not to sell their country and moral sense of right and wrong for anything. The modest proposal advocated that only domestically manufactured products would be bought to promote and give rise to Ireland's industries, hence creating job opportunities (Lowman, 72). The Irish people would refuse all foreign luxury that would be imported to Ireland. The poor people would reform the morality within the Irish women who did many things to survive, such as joining mercenaries armies due to starvation.


Instilling the great reluctance to unnecessarily spending money, circumspect in action, and restrained indulgence of natural passions, in the Irish people. The people of Ireland will know what to spend on if it is essential or not. The modest proposal would encourage the landowners to be fair and just to their tenants and enforcing honest practices among merchants. Consequently, the poor would finally have something of value for-profit, and the country's economy would increase significantly. The catholic population would decrease hence fewer Catholics in Ireland.

Works Cited

Lowman, Logan. "Human Consumption: Cannibalism as Exploitation in Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal and William Wordsworth's The Discharged Soldier." "Savage Delight" (2017): 69- 75.

Tarsney, Christian. "Intertheoretic value comparison: A modest proposal." Journal of Moral Philosophy 15.3 (2018): 324-344.

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