A modest proposal

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  • 1. A MODEST PROPOSAL
  • 2. Brief History of Ireland (the greatest country)
    • Irish History to 1729
    • 390-461       St. Patrick brings Christianity to Ireland 795-1014     Vikings begin series of invasions
    • 1170           Long-term British involvement in Ireland begins
    • 1541            Henry VIII of England, a Protestant, declares himself King of Ireland
    • 1649            Oliver Cromwell crushes Irish opposition.
    • By 1703,     Protestants own 90% of the country's land.
    • 1695-1728     Penal Laws: Acts against Catholics. These
    • o Prevent Catholics from bearing arms and owning horses worth over five pounds. o Restrict their rights to education. o Stop them buying land and on death, Catholic property has to be divided among all sons. o Ban Catholics from serving in the army, holding public office, entering the legal profession, becoming MPs or voting.
  • 3. Fun with Words
    • The language of "A Modest Proposal" is specific and succinct. It is also playfully shocking, as demonstrated in the following paragraph in which Swift uses carcasses (remains of dead animals dressed by butchers) to refer to the remains of children prepared as meat: "Supposing that one thousand families in this city, would be constant customers for Infant's Flesh, besides others who might have it at merry meetings, particularly at weddings and christenings, I compute that Dublin would take off annually about twenty thousand carcasses , and the rest of the Kingdom (where probably they will be sold somewhat cheaper) the remaining eighty thousand."
  • 4. Questions
    • “ A Modest Proposal” is an ironic essay: the author deliberately writes what he does not mean.  What is the real thesis?  Is there more than one?
    • 2. A clear difference exists between Swift and the persona who makes this proposal.  Characterize the proposer.  
    • 3. Would it be possible to read this essay as a serious proposal?  
    • 4. Look closely at paragraphs 4, 6, and 7, and study how the appeals to logic are put in mathematical and economic terms.  Underline those words and phrases.    
  • 5.
    • 5. When does the reader begin to realize that the essay is ironic?  Before or after the actual proposal is made in paragraph 10?    
    • 6. Which groups of people are singled out as special targets for Swifts’ attack?  Are the Irish presented completely as victims, or are they also to blame?    
    • 7. Does the essay merely function as a satirical attack?  Does Swift ever present any serious proposals for improving conditions?  If so, where?    
    • 8. What is the purpose of the last paragraph?
  • 6.
    • 9. How does Swift want the reader to view the speaker? What features best describe the “persona he adopts”?
    • 10. Note Swift’s diction in the opening paragraphs. Identify examples of quantification and dehumanization. Explain their purpose.
    • 11. Swift’s speaker explains the anticipated results before revealing the actual proposal. Explain the rhetorical purpose of such a strategy.
    • 12. What are some assumptions underlying paragraph 7?
    • 13. For each of the classic appeals (ethos, logos, and pathos), indicate two examples from the first eight paragraphs. Which one is the speaker’s primary appeal?
    • 14. Read paragraph 9 carefully. Explain the purpose and effect of the qualifiers included there.
  • 7.
    • 15. Taking careful note of the diction of paragraph 12, with words such as “dear” and “devoured,” explain the rhetorical strategy at work.
    • 16. Indicate Swifts' motivational appeals, specifically those to thrift, economy, and patriotism. Explain the rhetorical strategy behind such appeals.
    • 17. Consider the additional proposal mentioned in paragraph 17. Explain the rhetorical strategy at work in that paragraph.
    • 18. Identify a counterargument that the speaker anticipates in paragraph 19.
    • 19. Explain what Swift suggest as “expedients” in paragraph 19-31, and explain the rhetorical strategy at work.
    • 20. The very end of paragraphs 31 and32 may be seen as breaks from Swift’s ironic voice. Explain how that may be the case, and identify one another place where Swift’s voice breaks through that of his personae.
  • 8. Writing Assignments:
    • Read paragraphs 1-6 of Swift’s satire. Drawing from this section, write an essay in which you explain how Swift’s ironic persona uses rhetorical strategies to prepare the readers for his proposal.
    • Read paragraphs 20-26 Swift’s satire, then write an essay in which you explain how Swift uses diction, voice, pacing, organization, and other features of style rhetoric that you deem significant to develop his positions.
  • 9.
    • Near the end of the pamphlet (in colored type on this page) Swift dismisses some alternative solutions to the problem of poverty. He lists them, but does not explain them in detail. See if you can work out what any of them are. Write in each case whether the solution here would be better than the Modest Proposal.
    • This part of the Proposal is ambiguous - we cannot be sure of Swift's real intention. On the surface he is dismissing alternatives to his scheme - but we can see that they may be quite good ideas. Do you think that he really wants the reader to dismiss these ideas?
  • 10. Thinking: Would could be ways to use satire for these modern campaigns?
    • -Smoking in all Public Places Should/Should not be Banned -Euthanasia Should be Legalized/Remain Banned -Capital Punishment Should be Uniform in All Fifty States -The Drinking Age Should be Lowered to Eighteen