1001 Reads

Regularly updated blog charting the most important novels of the last 2000 and something years

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

26. Jonathan Swift - A Modest Proposal (1729)

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Francisco: A Modest Proposal is not a novel of any kind, if anything it is a satirical political essay. But don't let stop you, firstly it is only 8 pages long and secondly it is great. There are very few thinks written in the 1700's that manage to shock you today, but this is definitely one of them.

Swifts satire is rabid here and terribly shocking, he facetiously argues for eating Irish children as a way to make them profitable to the United Kingdom. His tongue-in-cheek must have been terribly hard to spot in the 18th century and you only get that it is a satire by how shocking the whole argument is. You eventually reach the inevitable conclusion that the man is defending the opposite that the writes and this is definitely the birth of modern satire.

Really a brilliant essay for all those that think that all was clean fun in olden days.

Vanda: Ok, damn it, first, WHY IS THIS INCLUDED? These list makers are starting to get on my nerves. How is this a novel? Seriously!

Second, it's brilliant and you should most definetely read it. I think this sort of satire would not go down well today, nevermind in the 18th century. I really must admire Mr. Swift's pair of jewels for writing this, even if his previous efforts left me cold and somewhat unimpressed.

Go on, it'll take you like five minutes and you'll have something interesting to share next time you're sitting in the café (or dreaming of it if you're sad and don't have a café culture).

Final Grade

Francisco: 8/10
Vanda: 8/10


The full original title is: 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

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. 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.


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