pressmen performance and photography

Monday, January 29, 2007

Jonathon Swift eats babies

A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick [sic], commonly referred to as A Modest Proposal, is a satirical pamphlet written by Jonathan Swift in 1729. The work has now become one of the epitomes of satire, and the modern phrase “a modest proposal” derives from the work.Swift proposed that poor Irish families sell their children to be eaten, thereby earning income for the family.
Written as an attack on the indifference of landlords to the state of their tenants and the political economists with their calculations on the schemes to raise income, the essay contains scathing comments about the state of the poor and their landlords.
Swift goes to great length to support his argument, including a list of possible preparation styles for the children and calculating the financial benefits of his suggestion. He uses common methods of argument throughout his essay, such as appealing to the authority of “a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London” and “the famous Psalmanazar, a native of the island Formosa” (who had already confessed to not being from Formosa in 1706). Swift couches his arguments in then-current events, exploiting common prejudice against Papists and slyly pointing out the predations of England. After enumerating the benefits of his proposal, Swift addresses possible objections including the depopulation of Ireland and a litany of other solutions which he dismisses as impractical.
This essay is widely believed to be the greatest example of sustained irony in the history of the English language.[citation needed]. Much of its shock value derives from the fact that the first portion of the essay describes the plight of starving beggars in Ireland, so that the reader is unprepared for the surprise of Swift’s solution when he states, “A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout.”
Even today, readers unacquainted with its reputation as a satirical work often do not immediately realize that Swift was not seriously proposing cannibalism. It is no longer true, as it was in Swift’s time, that any educated reader would be familiar with the Satires of Horace and Juvenal, and so recognize that Swift’s essay follows the rules and structure of Latin satires.
The satirical element of the pamphlet is often only understood after the reader notes the allusions made by Swift to the attitudes of landlords, such as the following: “I grant this food may 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 extends the metaphor to get in a few jibes at his perception of England’s mistreatment of Ireland, noting that “For this kind of commodity will not bear exportation, and flesh being of too tender a consistence, to admit a long continuance in salt, although perhaps I could name a country, which would be glad to eat up our whole nation without it.”The satirical intent of A Modest Proposal was misunderstood by many of Swift’s peers, and he was harshly criticized for writing prose in such exceptionally “bad taste.” He came close to losing his patronage because of this essay.[citation needed] Swift’s audience confused the essay’s subject—indifference to the suffering of the Irish poor—with the essay’s topic of cannibalism. This effect was accentuated because nothing in the unrelentingly sincere tone of the narrative voice hints that the proposal is unpalatable.

I found this and I am suprised at the use of Swift. yet one gets the feeling that people like the shock value as simple sensationalism. Not trying to say anything or if so only at a very superficial level. In fact all in tune with current cultural mores.


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