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An Altruistic Cannibal

            Irish-born Socialist and playwright George Bernard Shaw once satirically said, "Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people ." Jonathan Swift, in his 18th century pamphlet A Modest Proposal, would surely agree to Mr. Shaw's satire. Swift himself parodies this notion in a way that seeks to bring to light the ridiculousness of his English contemporaries. The absurd proposal allows him to communicate his sympathy for the people of Ireland whom he felt the English were profoundly mistreating. Swift employs irony along with parody by using what he masks as rational logic and compassion to highlight the ludicrous. A Modest Proposal can be considered an extraordinary example of an ironic parody through Swift's tone, diction, and the shear absurdity contained in his proposition.
             By utilizing a formal and rational tone, Swift allows the reader to be able to notice subtly the satire being developed. From the mission statement resolution onward in the pamphlet style document, the reader must suspect that Swift is parodying the social scientists of his time. The scientific and logical manner in which he formulates the argument creates a sense of seriousness that the subject at hand must be addressed and solved with a concrete plan of action. After calculating the number of children who are to be born annually to parents who simply cannot afford to care for them, Swift retorts, "The question therefore is, how this number shall be reared and provided for, which, as I have already said, under the present situation of affairs, is utterly impossible by all the methods hitherto proposed" (2474). The practicality conveyed in his thoughts evokes a sense of irony in that the overriding scheme being proposed is so outlandish. His tone reflects a dual sense of efficiency and concern as well, by first acknowledging the seriousness of the problem at hand and then proposing an answer which, from the mindset of a parody alone, would be in the best interest of everyone.

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