Study Guide

A Modest Proposal Visions of Ireland

By Jonathan Swift

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Visions of Ireland

Ireland in A Modest Proposal is a pretty dismal place to live. We first see Ireland through the eyes of the rich, encountering peasants in every nook and cranny of Dublin. Swift is more concerned with describing the Irish people than the landscape. It gets a little claustrophobic when he starts spouting numbers: 1.5 million people in Ireland, 200,000 women who can have children, 120,000 children.

When Swift does talk about the land, he wants us to know that Ireland is a shell of its former self. British restrictions on agriculture prevent the land from being developed, while landlords routinely neglect responsibilities. In other words, Ireland under English rule is not the greatest place to live.

Questions About Visions of Ireland

  1. Is the narrator an Irish citizen? How do you know?
  2. Why doesn't A Modest Proposal mention much about the land?
  3. If you were a first-time visitor to Ireland, what would you think about the first paragraph? Why?
  4. Why does Swift provide so many statistics when describing Ireland? Would the effect be different if he discussed the physical scenery?

Chew on This

Swift suggests that Ireland's overpopulation problem has redefined the physical landscape of the country.

Swift describes the terrible conditions in Ireland in order to set the stage for a dystopian satire.

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