Colonization In The Theme Of Conrads Heart Of Darkness And Swift’s A Modest ProposalJoseph Riley McCormackProfessor Alan SomersetEnglish 020 Section 007Submission Date: March 22, 2000Colonization in the Theme of A Modest Proposal and Heart of DarknessStarting at the beginning of the seventeenth century, European countries began exploring and colonizing many different areas of the world. The last half of the nineteenth century saw the height of European colonial power around the globe. France, Belgium, Germany, and especially Great Britain, controlled over half the world. Along with this achievement came a notable sense of pride and confident belief that European civilization was the best on earth and that the natives of the lands Europeans controlled would only benefit from colonial influence. However, not everybody saw colonization as positive for all those involved. Some of the most notable writers of the time produced works criticizing the process of colonization. Two of the most significant works in this area are Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal. Although these pieces of literature both criticize colonization, they have different themes. The theme of A Modest Proposal could be described as the negative effects of colonization on the colonized, while the central idea in Heart of Darkness is the negative effects of colonization on both the colonized and the colonizers. The differences in these themes are significant to the strategies used by the authors to explore the adverse effects of colonization. Swift makes great use of irony and imagery, to accentuate the plight of the Irish. Conrad comments on the frightening changes that people involved with colonization can go through by exploring character development and detailing a narrative of oppression.
Swift uses irony in A Modest Proposal because it allows him to highlight the emotional detachment felt by the colonizing British towards the Irish. It is this emotional detached feeling that lead to the atrocities committed against the Irish citizens. The irony in A Modest Proposal is evident right in the title. There is certainly nothing modest about the proposal of eating the infants of impoverished Irish citizens. The irony accentuates how cruel and uncompassionate the powerful British Imperialists were, towards the destitute Irish population. The reader must realize that Swift is operating independently of the narrator in a covert manner (Phiddian 607). He develops the persona of the proposer to say exactly the opposite of what he feels. While the proposer suggests eating poor Irish children is particularly proper at merry meetings, particularly weddings and christenings, this could not be further from the opinion of Swift. Nor does Swift actually believe that this plan will increase the care and tenderness of mothers toward their children. (NA 1052) Moreover, the whole topic of cannibalism, is discussed with tongue in cheek and is meant to suggest that the British were devouring the Irish. Images of cruelty and evil put, forward by the narrator, weigh heavily in the theme of A Modest Proposal. Throughout the pamphlet, the reader is bombarded with disturbing imagery of Irish people and their children being treated like livestock raised for consumption. The narrator refers to the parents of the children as savages (NA 1050) and breeders (NA 1051) and dams (NA 1048). Then he compares the children to roasting pigs (NA 1050) and continues as if he were writing a cook book. He speaks of how delicious he thinks these infants would be whether stewed, roasted, baked or boiled (NA 1049) or served in a fricassee or a ragout (NA 1049). He describes how the carcasses (NA 1050) of these babies could be nicely seasoned with a little pepper or salt (NA 1050) and will be in season throughout the year (NA 1050). Flaying the carcass and using the skin of these babies to make admirable gloves for ladies, and summer boots for fine gentlemen (NA 1050) is another suggestion he puts forward. He expands beyond just slaughtering the infants for food and leather products by suggesting the possibility of hunting the adolescents for sport. He dismisses this idea because he imagines the flesh of the adolescents would be too tough for eating and because hunting them would reduce the breeding stock. He also has concerns that some scrupulous people