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Analysis

Literary Devices in A Modest Proposal

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Setting

The scene in A Modest Proposal is pretty dismal. You're walking through the streets of Dublin when kids come pouring out of the woodwork. They're everywhere: packed into the roads and peering throu...

Narrator Point of View

A Modest Proposal is told in the first person point of view from an unnamed narrator. The Proposer never gives away his identity, because he's more interested in solving all of Ireland's woes. We...

Genre

If you want a prime example of satire, look no further. Swift is pretty keen on mocking the wealthy and their tendency to consume everything in sight. You might not get the joke for a page or so...

Tone

The idea that a young child could serve as a snack is just a tad ironic. The narrator "humbly" proposes his thoughts on cannibalism as if they're perfectly legitimate, ignoring the fact that they...

Writing Style

Ever read a boring textbook and realized halfway through that you didn't understand a thing? Yep, that's about the writing style Swift is aiming for. He packs so many big words and numbers into a s...

What's Up With the Title?

The full title is often shortened in student texts, but here's the whole enchilada: A Modest Proposal For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or t...

What's Up With the Ending?

The last paragraph of A Modest Proposal is the cherry on top of the satire. The narrator reaffirms that he is a loyal Irishman only looking out for the good of his country. Once again, folks, this...

Tough-o-Meter

There's a lot of lofty language in A Modest Proposal, like when Swift "maturely weigh[s] the several schemes of other projectors" and finds them "grossly mistaken in their projections" (4.1, 4)....

Plot Analysis

Here's a disclaimer, Shmoopers: A Modest Proposal is a political essay that doesn't really stick to a classic plot. Still, Swift adds lots of story-like details to keep readers interested and so ou...

Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

A Modest Proposal is more essay than story, but keep your eyes peeled for some classic plot references. Swift is a tricky one, and he likes to throw us for a loop every now and then.  The I...

Three-Act Plot Analysis

Irish children are swarming the streets and begging for food. The kids are constantly underfoot and not doing much to help society function. Cue Swift to the rescue!The author proposes that the Iri...

Trivia

If you're on a Swift satire kick, you'll definitely want to check out Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift. That's right—Swift really did write his own obituary. He also predicts the public response...

Steaminess Rating

There may be baby-eating, but there ain't no baby-making.

Allusions

Francois Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel (13)George Psalmanazar, Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa (18) James Francis Edward Stuart (the Pretender), son of James II who...
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