Jonathan Swift’s paper, A Modest Proposal, describes the social challenges confronting his world and makes the outrageous recommendation that children be killed to address the issue of overpopulation. As absurd as this idea may be, Swift sincerely persuades readers to consider cannibalism while using rhetorical devices to make the reader consider the social problems that he is tackling. In the story A Modest Proposal, the speaker successfully persuades the reader of the importance of addressing societal issues such as abortion, hunger, and overpopulation. He accomplishes this with the use of statistics and sarcasm.
As well, the author establishes himself as a credible speaker for the social problems facing his country.
To start with, Jonathan Swift uses factual statistics to illustrate the problem of overpopulation in his country. For instance, he states that over 100, 000 parents cannot adequately take care of their children which leads to malnourished children and increased crime rate since these children resort to rime at a young age (Swift 6). In his argument, Swift does not see the need of having so many children in society if the economy cannot sustainably meet all their needs. It is no wonder he suggests that they should be sold to the slaughterhouse and though this suggestion sounds inhumane, it illustrates the urgency of the need to control population growth in the country (Ramler et al. 363). Besides, by suggesting that each parent will get a profit of shillings 8 per annum, Swift illustrates the amount the country could save by controlling overpopulation and therefore contribute to sustainability in the country (Swift 23).
In supporting his argument, Jonathan Swift uses sarcasm by suggesting that some body parts of the child are good for human consumption and even goes further to suggest that on certain occasions such as during festivals, the body parts will be high on demand (Swift 12). This idea is ridiculous in that the children’s body parts will be both a delicacy and used for making ornaments. Secondly, he applies sarcasm in suggesting that Ireland should solve its economic problems (Ramler et al. 362). Jonathan suggests that if the poor people were food, they would raise revenues for their country through exporting excess children to other countries. Thirdly, Swift computes the price of each child as shillings and states that no gentleman would refuse to give shillings 10 to get the carcass of a good fat child (Swift 14). The use of sarcasm but the author is aimed at evoking anger and bitterness among the citizens and their government so that they look for a lasting solution to overpopulation.
Besides, Jonathan establishes himself as a person who has the moral authority and the knowledge to suggest solutions to problems facing his country. To do this, he presents a well-researched statistical data as an illustration that he understands the extent of over population (Ramler et al. 357). As well, he points the effects of overpopulation such as increased poverty and crime in society. As well, he declares that he has no personal interest in suggesting the solutions but his intentions are purely for the good of his country (Swift 33). By illustrating his credibility, Jonathan successfully persuades the reader on the need to improve the living conditions of the poor by addressing the social problems in the country.
In conclusion, Jonathan effectively convinces the reader on the urgency to solve social problems such as abortion, poverty, and overpopulation. He does this through the use of statistics, sarcasm and establishing himself as an authority on the social issues facing his country.
Remler, Dahlia K., Don J. Waisanen, and Andrea Gabor. “Academic journalism: A modest proposal.” Journalism Studies 15.4 (2014): 357-373.
Swift, Jonathan. A Modest Proposal. Penguin UK, 2015.