Author: Jonathan Swift
Publication Date: 1729
Review Score: 8/10
A Modest Proposal is a satirical essay, written by Swift in 1729, in response to the high level of poverty in Ireland and far removed gluttonous lifestyle of the rich landlords. The full title of the essay is A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burden on Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick and it is with regards to the children of the poor that Swift believes he has found a way to ease the suffering in Ireland.
Swift proposes that the poor in Ireland could sell their young as food for the rich, once they have stopped breast feeding and become a financial burden. This way the poor family would not need to feed and clothe the child, plus would receive a sum for selling them! Meanwhile the rich would have a new delicacy and the overpopulation problem would be solved!
Although the idea of this social commentary turns the stomach at points, with its detailed descriptions of the various ways in which the children could be slaughtered, prepared and cooked, it is incredibly clever in the way it pokes and provokes the unfair spread of wealth within Ireland during the 18th century.
Provocative and thought provoking, Swift partakes in reductio ad absurdum, taking the social situation to its most ridiculous lengths, but in doing so highlights the horrific situation that is taking place across the country.
Obviously Swift’s essay does not serve up a real, practical solution to the problem of poverty but that is not the point, the point is to get people to realise how ridiculous the situation is and try and change things!
Not really a novel and not really fiction but I am still very glad A Modest Proposal was on the list of 1001 Books to Read Before you Die.