Jonathan Swift uses a striking satire in his essay “A Modest Proposal”, which was written at a period of time Ireland’s economy was in decay and the Irish families were entering a atrocious period as their land was taken by the English. This was a time where the Irish had extremely poor living conditions since it was a period of starvation, as the English took all the Irish land and property and left them with the minimum. For this reason Swifts uses his technique of irony, throughout the economist voice in the essay “Modest Proposal”, to convey the situation the irish population was living at the moment, and at the same time mock humorously the rich Irish population. He does this by using economic language, uses metaphors of food to emphasize how scars it was, as well as swifts exaggerates the economic plan to sell the children in order for the country to obtain money.
Swifts uses satirical language when he talks about the babies and refers to them as food when he says “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.” Swift here plays around with the language usage as he represents children as food to emphasize the scarcity of food at the time. He also mocks the upper class Irish and English people, by his use of diction, since the food was only meant for the rich people at the time. Swift also uses the fact that he portrays children as food and therefore they are meant to be eaten to provoke us a feeling of disgust of the poor Irisih people at the time. “that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our savages, therefore one male will be sufficient to serve four females” the word savages in the sentences describes people who will eat the children, and it evokes in the reader a feeling of fear and disgust for the Irish for being compared with such atrocious things.
Swift uses diction as a way to play around with satire in his essay, as the economist says “as they already devoured most of our parents” (28) devour is a used as a metaphor to dehumanize, an give about a negative image of the people. However, this can be used in a satirical way since it has nothing to do with economy, yet the economist is using it in order to add a satirical tone to the essay. Swift also uses language such as distress in “although I apprehend there cannot be so many, under the present distress of the kingdom.” to emphasize the legal term of distress, which would mean the Irish had to sell their children. The economist uses this extreme insinuation with a humorous tone bringing out the satirical tone in the essay.
lastly, Swift uses economic language to emphasize the fact that it was a very hard period of time for the Irish. “The mother will have eight shillings net profit, and be fit for work till she produces another child” Swift is here moking the Irish population with the use of economic language, by using the words “net profit” a business terminology and referring it to a mother and her baby, by suggesting that the Irish only think of their women and their children as a machine of making money, which emphasizes how they in fact needed the money therefore they even look as their children as a form of making money. Swift also conveys another part of the essay where it talks about how men are only marriage and only have babies as a form of making money, and if it wasn’t because they saw the babies as a form of income they would not take care of their pregnant wife. This is shown where it says “Men would become as fond of their wives during the time of their pregnancy as they are now of their mares n foal, their cows in calf, their sows when they are ready to farrow; nor offer to beat or kick them for fear of a miscarriage.” The comparison of a baby and a cow in this sentence, shows how men viewed their children as a source of income and how they in fact did not appreciate their wives, swift conveys this by using satiric language in the two complete opposite comparison between a children and a cow.
It is evident that Swift uses Satirical language through literary techniques in a “Modest Proposal”, throughout the economist way of writing. he does this by the use of economical language and the humor in how the economist describes the canibalism of the babies. in order to evoke his thoughts about the Irish and what was going on at the time. He indeed uses economic language, irony, and comparisons to mock the Irish people and their greed for money, specially the rich population at the time.