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A Modest Proposal

A Modest Proposal

by Jonathan Swift

Society and Class Quotes Page 2

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #4

'Tis true, a child just dropped from its dam may be supported by her milk for a solar year with little other nourishment, at most not above the value of two shillings. (4)

Notice how Swift is comparing a human child to a baby animal. He's buttering up his readers for the big proposal.

Quote #5

The number of souls in this kingdom being usually reckoned one million and a half, of these I calculate there may be about two hundred thousand couple whose wives are breeders, from which number I subtract thirty thousand couple who are able to maintain children, although I apprehend there cannot be as many under the present distresses of the kingdom. (6)

Get ready for a bunch of numbers. This was actually one of Swift's big gripes: people were viewed as numbers and not… well, people.

Quote #6

I am assured by our merchants that a boy or a girl before twelve years old is no saleable commodity […] which cannot turn account either to the parents or the kingdom, the charge of nutriment and rags having been at least four times that value. (8)

Pre-teens: what are they good for? The narrator later contradicts himself to make a halfhearted argument about using them to replace deer meat.

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