A Not so Swift Proposal Essay

Submitted By bomberbowler4
Words: 931
Pages: 4

Anthony Hughes
3/17/13
Diction in “A Modest Proposal”

A Not so Swift Proposal “Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own” Jonathan Swift, The Battle of the Books and Other Short Pieces. Jonathan Swift is one of the best satirical writers of all time without a doubt. The satire Swift uses in “A Modest Proposal” is aimed toward the wealthy Englishmen who own estates in Ireland. At this period in time, the Irish people are very poor and having children is burdensome and not cheap. Swift achieves the main point of criticizing the wealthy landlords and the poor by using diction, a style of speaking or writing as dependent upon choice of words, to expose the people of Ireland in an irrational, sadistic and inhumane way. Jonathan Swift’s first noticeable use of diction comes into play around line 28 where he says, “… a child just dropped from its dam may be supported by her milk for a solar year.” “Dam” is the word of diction in the quote and is a reference to mothers of four-footed domesticated animals. The second example where Swift uses diction also in the reference to animals on line 45 where he says, “… I calculate there may be about two hundred thousand couple whose wives are breeders;” this is another over example of how the Irish may have been portrayed by the English and are basically non-human to them. These first examples of diction are very important in setting up the rest of the pamphlet because it shows how low the Irish citizens were really seen by the English. Next Swift uses diction in a method other than an inhumane approach to show imagery in cannibalism. In lines 76-79 Swift writes, “… that a 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 in a ragout.” Swift uses these very nauseating, yet sense appealing words to get the reader to first think about the sense appealing words such as, “Stewed” “roasted” “baked” “boiled” because you can see, taste, smell your mothers best food that she makes for each of these descriptive words, but then he throws in the fact that it’s a year old, healthy child which is cooking. This unthinkable action of eating babies is gut-wrenching and should definitely throw up red flags to the reader saying that what the English landlords pay their workers is so little that the only plausible way which they should survive is if they eat year old babies. If the reader thinks that this is already too much to handle they’re in for a big surprise when in lines 91-95 Swift writes, “A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.” The diction Swift uses in this quote is once again propaganda for trying to get the Irish to turn on the English for their poor treatment of their people by using descriptive words like “boiled” and “seasoned”. Also Swift uses diction from a religious stand point. In Ireland, at around 1720, there are many Roman Catholics which flocked there as a way of escape from persecution from the English. In lines 105-110 Swift now targets Roman Catholics by saying, “there are more children born in Roman…