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A Modest Proposal
Swift's "A Modest Proposal", in which he suggests that the problem of Irish poverty can be solved by the sale of the children of the poor for consumption, is above all things a criticism of human faults: extremism of thinking, greed, pride, hypocrisy, intolerance, and insensitivity. His use of ireony is evident even in the title: the idea that not only should poor Irish children be eaten, but that they should be bred for eating is certainly anything but modest. Swift's plan is that through irony, sarcasm, and exaggeration, the reader will recognize those faults which may not seem so obvious in their more mild forms. In Swift's criticism of extremist thinking, he switches back and forth throughout the text between two different methods of thinking: one is purely emotional, the other is purely rational. The faulty logic is obvious in comparisons between the conclusions that both methods reach. For example, the reasonable thinker, in his discussion of the breeding of the children who are to be consumed, assumes that the mother has no emotional attachment to her children and would be happy to give them up to be slaughtered for the profit. And yet the emotional thinker says that those mothers who abort their children do so for emotional reasons, namely shame. It follows then that those who give birth to their "bastards" must feel enough love for them to raise them in spite of whatever shame they may feel. Also the emotional narrator describes begging as dishones...