Swifts ‘A Modest Proposal’ is considered to be one of the most effective pieces of satirical writing ever published. Discuss this statement in relation to the text Jonathan Swift comes from a long line of highly talented and hugely celebrated Irish writers. He specialises in a form of writing known as Satire. The Oxford English Dictionary defines Satire to be ‘a form of writing holding up a person or society to ridicule, or showing the foolishness or wickedness of an idea or custom. A piece of writing that poses false pretensions.
Swift’s most famous, or infamous, piece of writing which displays such satire is A Modest Proposal. It is written as an article and was published in 1729. It goes into some detail to explain To analyse the effectiveness of Swift’s writing I will concentrate on several central points. Satirical writing must make use of irony and sarcasm. The more irony and sarcasm a writer uses, the greater the effect his writing has upon the audience. A Modest Proposal can therefore be considered as an idyllic piece of satirical writing, as Swift maintains his sarcastic and ironic views, from the title to the very last sentence.
His proposal of eating children is rather an extreme one, but he calls it a modest proposal to enhance his sarcasm. The reason Swift comes up with this proposal is to solve the food and money shortage throughout the kingdom of Ireland. But what it really sets out to do is to make a mockery of people in those days. What is truly ironic though is the fact that Swift makes such exemplary use of sarcasm and irony in his writing that when the piece was published, many people actually believed that Swift was being serious, and there was confusion and uproar throughout Ireland.
In my opinion, this in itself is proof enough that A Modest Proposal is the most effective piece of satirical writing ever published, as it managed to deceive people into believing an idea which seems totally preposterous in this day and age. The reason Swifts sarcasm has such a big impact on the reader is because of the depth of detail in his writing. He goes to great lengths to calculate certain figures such as the cost of feeding a child for a year, and the net profit per child that one would make if they sold their children to be eaten.
This shows the reader that he is being serious, when in fact his actual intentions are quite innocent. His writing is set out in a formal style, and his points are ordered as they would be in an actual proposal. People in those days, and today for that matter, have the idea that if something is written or read in formal English, it must be truthful and reliable. This is why Swift’s writing is so effective, because he can easily manipulate the audience into believing that he is genuinely proposing this idea, so he can show them to be foolish afterwards.