Published anonymously by Jonathan Swift in 1729, “A Modest Proposal” is a satirical essay. It suggests that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies.
Widely held to be one of the greatest examples of sustained irony in the history of the English language, this essay astonished audiences at the time of publication. Swift goes to great lengths to support his argument, including a list of possible preparation styles for the children and calculations showing the financial benefits of his suggestion. He attacks projects that tried to fix population and labor issues with a simple, cure-all solution. This work is a paradox that forces readers, or listeners, in this case, to question themselves about the human condition and the differences between social classes.
Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”—we begin….