Jonathan Swift’s work, A Modest Proposal, is a ridiculous proposal written to illustrate that the state of Ireland is backwards and bad and to depict the situation the country’s social classes are in. The writer uses different stylistic devices in his satirical essay to achieve his objective. Some of them are insincerity, sarcasm, and rhetorical exaggeration, which he employs to demonstrate his level of dissatisfaction with politicians, papists, and the inhabitants of the poverty-struck Ireland in general. His concern is the condition of the state in the late seventeenth century. In his proposal, Swift goes ahead to suggest ways of solving the problem. Thus, the writer exploits the narrative and exemplification writing modes to convey his message effectively using different tones, insincerity, and ridiculousness throughout his work.
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The narrative mode of writing is evident from the beginning of the proposal. Swift starts his essay by clearly bemoaning the situation of the poor in Ireland (Swift 1). In his vivid narration, the writer describes the miserable situation of mothers who consistently move around the streets of the country while begging for alms. As shown by the proposer, the women walk with several children in their arms, and he refers to the kids as “a crowd of children” (Swift 1).
Moreover, the writer goes ahead to state that the population is largely composed of poor people who have no employment. He associates various vices like crimes and slavery with the devastating state of poverty that is witnessed in Ireland.
The manner in which Swift presents the picture of the country at the beginning of his proposal is a clear narration of the unfortunate encounters experienced by the state’s citizens. The writer strives to tell the story as it is by using clear sensory details that can enable the readers to understand the actual situation. As he describes the level of poverty in Ireland, Swift creates an imaginary picture in people’s minds to develop the emotional appeal of the current state of affairs. He presents the facts as they are; just as they can be laid by an eyewitness that tells a story to a third party. Through his work, readers get a feeling of the situation, hence, developing the interest in finding out the solutions that he has. A critical examination of the manner in which Swift presents his experience reveals that narration is one of the ways that he uses to seek audience and to attract readers’ attention. After successfully creating an image of the state of poverty in Ireland, the writer believes that his readers will be convinced in the relevance of the proposed solutions. He thinks that all people will accept the fact that the country’s deplorable condition, as presented in his narration, is an extra disadvantage for the economy that needs to be fought with (Swift 1).
Swift goes ahead to express his disappointment with the confrontations between Ireland and England. He provides a historical description of the late seventeenth century when Ireland was controlled by their neighboring nation. The writer also mentions that heavy taxation was imposed on the Irish by the English. In his proposal, Swift clearly draws attention to the fact of the Irish people’s exploitation mentioning the amount of money that they had to pay in tax. For instance, the English taxed the Irish absentees at 5shillings a pound and forbade them to use both clothes and household furniture manufactured in their native country. Thus, Swift uses narration to convince the Irish that they should resist the English influence. He describes the sufferings that the Irish went through under the English rule so that they get motivated to fight for self-determination and to achieve a sense of national pride. The proposer looks at this strategy as a perfect move that would help in overcoming Ireland’s economic crisis.
The second mode of writing that is predominant in Swift’s pamphlet is exemplification. When using it, one focuses his or her attention on providing illustrations to support an idea. Swift uses several examples to explain and clarify his generalizations, thus, presenting himself as a reasonable and pedantic thinker whose solutions are practical. To support his views concerning the state of Ireland, the writer uses clear statistics about the demography and economics of the country. Moreover, he talks of the English colonial rule of absentee landlords as an illustration of the sufferings and exploitation that the Irish went through (Swift 6).
To support his proposal of the solution to poverty and the problem of street children, Swift presents statistics on the birth rate in the state. He suggests that out of the 120,000 infants born every year, the wealthy would be allowed to buy 100,000 for their consumption while 20,000 children would be reserved for breeding. The writer does a calculation to prove that plump infants of 30 pounds would be capable of providing food. Besides, he shows that the parents of such kids could earn much profit from their sales. Additionally, he states that it will benefit the rich as the skin of the children that are used for food would be used to make gloves for wealthy ladies. He adds that the rich gentlemen will also get summer boots made for them out of the same skin (Swift 7). To make his proposal more convincing, Swift weighs its pros and cons and gives examples of how it would be helpful. For instance, he states that it would lower the number of Catholics in Ireland, enable farmers to pay their absentee landlords, and increase Ireland’s domestic revenue among other advantages.
In conclusion, Swift has effectively used two modes of writing alongside to achieve his objectives. His narrative technique has helped him in creating a picture of the situation in the readers’ minds so that they develop interest in the proposal. The narration forms the basis of the entire essay as it presents the problem that it actually seeks to solve. Through the use of exemplification, Swift gives facts to support his views. He uses statistical evidence and examples to convince his readers that the proposal is reliable. Despite criticisms expressed against the style of conveying the message, A Modest Proposaleffectively revealed Ireland’s miserable conditions and the author’s vision of the way forward.
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