The Eighteenth-century was not an easy time for the country of Ireland, which was facing an ever continuous social, economical, and political dilemma. In his work, "A Modest Proposal", Jonathan Swift orchestrates a witty satire aimed not only at the arithmeticians of the time, but at the people of Ireland as well. Through varying tones he introduces a plan of commercial cannibalism in hopes of "preventing the children of poor people in Ireland from being a burden to their parents or country and making them beneficial to the public" (BL 1138). By using ironic, factual and graphic tones, Swift attempts to demonstrate the desperate situation of the country, and the necessity for social and moral reforms.
The title "A Modest Proposal" is the clearest of all irony throughout the satire since it is indeed, not a modest, but a grossly inhumane proposal. It is also ironic in another way, in that Swift does not consider his proposal to be inhumane because the country is already declining from the inside out. To further his ironic plan, Swift states that some advantages are "it will prevent those voluntary abortions, and that horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children" (BL 1139) and "instead of being a charge upon their parents or the parish . they shall, on the contrary, contribute to the feeding and partly to the clothing of many thousands" (BL 1139). In offering this solution, Swift points out that in this way, the murdering of children will benefit the country. There will no longer be meaningless deaths among infants. Continuing on in his sincere idea, he offers "that of the hundred thousand children already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breeding, whereof only one fourth part to be males, which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle, or swine" (BL 1140). This rationalization for the production of child cannibalism distances the reader from the reality behind what is being suggested.