You are on page 1of 6

December 8, 2011


Jonathan Swifts A Modest Proposal was written following

the classical rhetorical scheme. Nevertheless he uses

different rhetorical techniques in order to catch his

audiences attention, such as: hints to let the reader know

the tone of what is he going to propose, statistics to give

the sense of logic and reality to his proposal, and

vocabulary to address the proposal to a specific audience.

Swift appeals to the readers sympathy by starting his

proposal with an anecdote Its a melancholic object [].

Not only by presenting the problematic as a subject that

affects society, but also by promising a solution to the

problem he stated, Swift involucres the reader. He also

delays the real statement of his proposal to increase the

readers attention. All these elements are essential to keep

the reader interest on his essay, without them and due to the

nature of the text; the reader would stop reading his

outrageous proposal.

Swift uses a very specific vocabulary to address his essay to

the aristocracy; in one way he is either trying to be

December 8, 2011

sympathetic to them to gain their approval or he is simply

being ironical with the behavior this class have towards the

lower one. The word melancholy portrays this idea of sympathy

to the high class.

The usage of hints is another rhetorical technique Swift uses

to catch the readers attention and to approach it to the

proposal in a delicate way. The first hint can be found in

the subtitle of the essay For preventing the children of

poor people in Ireland from being a burden to their parents

or country, [] the word burden leads to the idea that his

proposal will deal with a solution to eradicate the poor

children from Ireland.

Even though he does not tell that his proposal has to do with

cannibalism in its whole letters, he says in this passage

that all these children, who are a burden to their parents

and to the country, are going to be the main source of

feeding of the country and that his proposal will be relying

on this thesis.

In order to gain veracity the author uses a scientific

language: through detailed statistics, ciphers and

calculations; Swift reflects the dimension of the problem.

December 8, 2011

This is a necessity the text has due to the tone of reality

the proposal has. Even with the statistics, while reading,

one can think both that the writer is being completely

irreverent, or that the proposal is a joke.

Swift describes his plan and how he would execute it to show

how his proposal can be extremely beneficial. In order to

achieve this, he describes all the benefits people would get

if his plan is carried out. By mentioning benefits

aristocracy will have such as: makes the proposal a selling


Irony plays a very important role in the text. First, the

title is completely ironical, trying to make a revolutionary

change in the economical and social system of a whole country

by murdering children is not modest at all. Second, the

theme of the entire text is incongruent because he proposes

to eat poor children in order to finish with poverty, so the

people benefited from the eradication of poverty are being

eradicated themselves. Third, the author is being ironical as

well, he supports the notion of murdering children but when

the time of putting in practice his proposal, he justifies

himself and avoids it quote. Fourth, he starts his proposal

December 8, 2011

by appalling pity for the poor, and will end up suggesting

the reader to kill and eat them. Finally, the rhetorical

techniques provide the text with eloquence, logic and a

serious style, which is in complete incongruity with the

nature of the repulsive and irrational proposal of eating

children. The text is mocking the traditional ways of


These techniques not only help the author prove his proposal

is feasible and beneficial, but also make the reader think

that there is a slight possibility that the author might be

talking seriously and also encourages us to be reflexive

toward the problem he is presenting, poverty. These

techniques were carefully applied to approach the reader to

the text. The last paragraph is the last hint which tells us

that he was being ironical the whole time. One would think

that if he is proposing such a radical solution he would be

the first to put it in practice, but he just washes his

hands. Even though we know it is an ironical essay it leaves

us thinking that it is actually a very logical solution to

poverty problems, and this is because of the economic

problems our society is going through nowadays.

December 8, 2011

Mara Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards


December 8, 2011


KERMODE, Frank. Ed. The Oxford Anthology of

English Literature Volume I. Oxford
University Press, London, England 1960. Pp.
1767 - 1773.

PHIDDIAN, Robert. Swifts Parody, Cambridge

University Press, Great Britain, 1995. Pp. 19

FOX, Christopher. Ed. The Cambridge Companion

to Jonathan Swift, Cambridge University
Press, United Kingdom, 2003. Pp. 60, 61, 138

WILLIAMS, Kathleen. Ed. Jonathan Swift the

Critical Heritage, Routledge London and New
York, 1995, New York United States. Pp. 199.