ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Modest Proposal: Jonathan Swift's Satire

Updated on June 24, 2018
James September profile image

James September is a licensed teacher and freelance writer. He obtained his Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language in 2012.

In the article entitled “A Modest Proposal” Jonathan Swift (1979) used satirical move to highlight the negative condition of the society. He described the social sphere of Ireland and the struggling economic and moral condition of the people. When Swift stressed that poverty in the family could be solved if the poor families would sell their children for their food, he merely drew ridicule and sarcasm targeting the rich British people who control and manipulate the Irish community. His satirical move by intention conveyed an important message of disappointment and disgust among those who showed injustice among the low-profile members of the society. As Swift’s A Modest Proposal, which contains less than two thousand words, has been the greatest literary masterpiece with sardonic viewpoints, his intention and his modest proposal successfully delivered the message.

Swift’s proposal would intend to wake up the rich British people and their actions why some poor people suffered. He wanted to inform the Irish community on terms how the rich British people made their lives chaotic. He needed to increase social and political awareness so that people would see how difficult life could be if the rich people continued to control and manipulate the entire political and economic system. Swift’s proposal to fatten up those malnourished and underfed children. Swift’s response to this problem was to emphasize a mocking, sardonic approach that the poor children should be sold to the rich people even at the young age in order to earn money (Swift, 1995, p. 34). Swift’s tone of voice based on his writing showed remorse to the growing poverty in the country. Because Swift did not notice the progress of the country due to their behavior and characteristic, he wrote a modest proposal for change even if his language and his message delivery sounded awful and barbaric.

Swift’s proposal forced the British people to act on it. It was because Swift’s approach was offensive. However, readers could not deny the fact that poor people during those times were as good as dead because they suffered from famine and starvation. The poor people were caught in the time when they fought for poverty, unemployment, and hopelessness (Wittkowsky, 1943, p. 4). There had been no proper laws that favored the poor people and that the government provided them with benefits and supports. If there were those means of support given to the people, basically the poor people did not receive them because of the benefits of the program directed to the wealthy people and community. When Swift exposed the grim reality of the poor people, the rich British people had to consider the Irish people as part of the community.

Furthermore, Swift’s A Modest Proposal gained a number of readers that advanced dogmatic thoughts and proposed solutions for economic and political problems. Using his satirical style and method, his portrayal of his subjects revealed his personal despair at the failure of his society (Allan, 2003, p. 199). Swift protested his society, but in a form of a satirical piece of writing, he was able to create power and voice of his thoughts. He did not like his society, and he wanted to escape away from it. While Swift was a wise economic thinker, he articulated his ideas and thoughts to disclose his feelings of disgust about the world where he lived.

In a nutshell, Swift’s A Modest Proposal with its tartly sarcastic essay captured the attention of the British audiences. His aggressive, obnoxious, and direct to the point language conveyed his point depressingly. If the rich British people understood his point and changed their perceptions of life, Swift’s ideas had persuaded them to create a new social and political environment. His words were more than swords that forced the rich British people to react to their actions, policies, moral and ethical values, and laws. Swift’s A Modest Proposal became the greatest literary masterpiece with an ironic style of all time.


Allan, J. (2003). A Modest Proposal. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 23(2), 197-210.

Swift, J. (1995, February). A modest proposal for preventing the children of poor people from being a burthen to their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the public. In Child and Youth Care Forum (Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 5-12). Springer Netherlands.

Wittkowsky, G. (1943). Swift’s Modest Proposal: The Biography of an Early Georgian Pamphlet. Journal of History of Ideas, pp. 2 – 126.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)