Study Guide

A Modest Proposal Summary

By Jonathan Swift

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A Modest Proposal Summary

A Modest Proposal begins by lamenting the sad fate of the poverty-stricken Irish who have to spend all their time looking for food to stuff in their kids' mouths. Luckily, the author has come up with an excellent way to put the brats to good use: raise them as food for wealthy citizens. Really, it all makes perfect sense. If you aren't entirely convinced right away, he proceeds to spell out the benefits.

It's all good, because only 100,000 Irish children out of the population will be set aside for dinner. If you're not sure how to cook a child, don't worry. A friend of the author passes on some very helpful suggestions regarding stewing, roasting, baking, and boiling methods. Even better, the author calculates exactly how much a child should weigh to serve the maximum number of guests.

Best of all, raising children for food will give the Irish economy a substantial boost. These kids are delicacies, after all, and delicacies don't come cheaply. Not only can parents make a tidy profit on their youngsters, but the culinary experience will make Ireland a hot spot for tourists.

The author insists that the only objection anyone could possibly have to this plan is that fewer people will occupy Ireland. But see, reducing the population makes it easier for the great and noble England to deal with their unruly subjects. If you have any residual doubts that the plan won't work, he argues, ask the parents whether they'd be happier with a whiny kid or a couple dollars in their pockets. It's a no-brainer.

And just so you know that the author isn't biased, take this into account: he can't possibly profit from the brilliant scheme, given that his kids are too old and tough to fetch much money.

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