Study Guide

A Modest Proposal Inertia

By Jonathan Swift

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A Modest Proposal: brought to you by lazy folks. Swift's sole purpose in writing this satire is to get people talking, moving, and doing just about anything but sitting around with the crossword puzzle. Since this is a Juvenalian satire, you know that Swift won't be taking it easy on the landlords who kick back and raise the rents on their poverty-stricken tenants. He especially likes linking vanity to idleness. In other words, the wealthy spend all their time primping and eating fine dishes while the poor consider human sacrifice to survive.

Questions About Inertia

  1. Why is Swift so upset about laziness? Is he worried about alienating his readers?
  2. What are some techniques used to prompt action?
  3. Are the Irish peasants portrayed as hard workers? Why or why not?
  4. Does Swift want his readers to offer solutions? Does the narrator?

Chew on This

Swift feels that the satire form allows him to critique his readers' laziness.

A Modest Proposal purposefully exaggerates the lack of English action. No one would have given it much thought otherwise.

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