A Modest Proposal loves to point out abuses of power. Swift calls out wealthy landlords who overcharge their tenants and politicians looking to make a quick buck. He doesn't rant against them, but instead prods them to rediscover their empathy. After all, the rich may be sitting pretty now, but it's a long fall from the top of the food chain.
There's definitely some desperation in the air: Swift knows that the power players are hanging on by a thread in poverty-stricken Ireland. A Modest Proposal hits home because even the powerful are vulnerable.
Questions About Power
- Does Swift distinguish between power in Ireland and power in England? Why or why not?
- Are the powerless given a voice in A Modest Proposal?
- Why does the narrator think that rich landowners will respond well to his proposal?
- Are the poor entirely subject to the power of the wealthy?
Chew on This
Swift believes that power is a corrupting force, but he also believes in the power of humanity. His willingness to write A Modest Proposal demonstrates optimism.
As a wealthy Irish Protestant, Swift criticizes his peers. He recognizes his own privilege and seeks to use his power for good.