Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Modest Proposal

Swift, Jonathan. "A Modest Proposal." Victorian Web. (1729): n. page. <>.

This article explains “A Modest Proposal” presented by Jonathan Swift to deal with the large number of people in Dublin that are unable to contribute to society and instead place a burden on the country. He tells of how while walking the streets, you will see a woman begging for alms in order to feed herself and her numerous children who are also on the street begging. Even when these kids grow up, they will most likely not be productive members of society and instead resort to thievery or selling themselves. Swift proposes that children of those who would not be able to provide for them be instead nourished until they are one year of age, and then sold to fortunate gentleman who would consume this one-year old as a delicacy of sorts.
It’s interesting to see all the different arguments in various texts that people use to justify cannibalism. In most cases, cannibalism is thought of being used as a last resort and as a means of survival, but it this case it is more of a means of disposal. Swift seems to have put a lot of thought into his proposal and thoroughly explains the rationale behind his decisions and the specifics in his proposal. He also does make a good point, that this surplus of unproductive citizens in the country will be more of a burden than a benefit in the long run. Allowing parents to sell their children at one year of age would be of minimal cost to the parents in terms of feeding and clothing and would yield a much larger profit than they and probably used to earning. This would indeed be a feasible source of income for lower class families and I could see how supplying the one-year-old infant could be a popular means of income, but I wonder how many people would actually be willing to purchase another human child for the sole purpose of consumption? If they are willing to eat someone else’s child, what is stopping them from having their own child and then eating it? Sure it would take more effort and be more time-consuming, but the end result may be a better “product” since they would be able to control all aspects of development. Swift also, very modestly I may add, suggests this proposal but also invites others to make their own suggestions on how to better this problem of the increasing number of people in the country that increase the burden on the country while providing minimal benefits. Finally, Swift talks about how his proposal is of no expense and little trouble. While this may be true in a financial sense, this proposal, although not mentioned in this article would most likely be paid through a moral expense, costing a person only the mere price of their soul in order to partake in this method of cannibalistic disposal. On a slightly different mindset, it would be interesting if this article was written not as an actual proposal to be put into practice, but as a what-if scenario to disgust the readers that such a practice could even be thought of as a solution. This would encourage readers to try to come up with their own more feasible, reasonable, and acceptable solutions to the same addressed problem.

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