During the late seventeenth century, political pamphlets were distributed throughout Ireland to promote the ideas of various intellectuals and laymen. However, many discarded them and did not pay attention to them. Jonathan Swift, author of "A Modest Proposal," takes advantage of the overlooked pamphlets, and constructs a ridiculous proposal. He does this to illustrate how backwards and bad the state of Ireland is and the social classes. Swift proposes that the babies of all the poor and desolate will "contribute to the feeding, and partly to the clothing, of many thousands" to improve Ireland's economy and standard of living. He says this because many women kept having children but were unable to provide for them. He also states that his proposal would make the babies "beneficial to the public". Also, it is proposed because of Ireland's sincerely grim living standards. For these reasons, he looks at the politicians to blame for the poor conditions because of the apathy they presented while in the decision making process, to resolve the conditions. In "A Modest Proposal", Swift effectively uses insincerity, sarcasm, and rhetorical exaggeration to reveal his annoyance of politicians, papists, and overall citizens of poverty-stricken Ireland in the late seventeenth century. However, there are three factors that make Swift's argument not serious: the tone of the author, his insincerity, and ridiculousness of the proposal.
Jonathan Swift uses irony to satirize what is going on in Ireland. Irony is the expression of one's meaning by using contradicting language. For instance, Swift says to "sacrifice the poor innocent babes" to "preventvoluntary abortions and [the] horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children". He is telling the reader that women are performing abortions because they are not financially stable to support their children and that children are actually stealing at the age of six, just to survive.