Literature And Criticism In A Modest Proposal By Jonathan Swift

1983 Words 8 Pages
“A Modest Proposal” is an extremely complex piece of literature and satire. Written by Jonathan Swift, the same man who wrote Gulliver’s Travels, however this work is considerably different from Gulliver’s Travels. Swift’s more popular full length novel is a story about the human condition and the interactions among people. “A Modest Proposal” is noticeably different and, without the proper background, perplexing work due to its subject matter. It handles the complex interactions between the English and the Irish and attempts to criticize both governments and even criticize the United States. However without the proper knowledge beforehand, the reader gets lost in the history behind “A Modest Proposal” and possibly misinterpret the meaning …show more content…
A particularly impactful quote on “A Modest Proposal” and its meaning is “...Of using neither clothes, nor household furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture: Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury…” (Swift) This conveys the idea that Ireland was very dependent on England for luxury imports for certain items listed above: clothing, furniture and anything that could be made simply in their own country. This was actually said what was the one thing needed to save Ireland from the state of poverty that they found themselves in. It was Fanning and Garvin that said there were three things needed to reform Ireland; they needed spots in the government that was in charge of their country, a reform of the money taken out of Ireland, and arguably the most important, the ability to trade freely with England and other nations. At this time it was impossible to trade freely because they held no persuasive power in the government so the best thing to do would be to become entirely independent of the world and cease trade of any kind. However this was simply not a feasible thing to do. At this time, the majority of Ireland were tenants to the land which was owned by someone else, much higher up in social status than they were. They were completely at the mercy of these landlords and …show more content…
Not only that, but they were also “absentee landlords” meaning that they lived and held almost all their loyalties to England but essentially owned the people living on their land. Swift criticized these “absentee landlords” for their corruption through this quote from “A Modest Proposal”, “I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children” (Swift). Taking away the satirical techniques utilized in this quote, the purpose of that statement is that landlords of the time have taken all of the tenants money. This is most certainly what did happen throughout Irish history during the 18th century. It was under the land-tenure system of the time that led to this. England was allowed to rent out untaxed land to Irish and then take almost all of the profits that the farms on these pieces of land (Smith 473) . This is very similar to the feudal system that took place during the middle ages in which a lord would provide land to his vassal. However under the system that was taking place in Ireland, there was no exchange of protection or respect for the profits. The only person that was benefitting in any way were the “absentee

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