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Monday, January 26, 2009

A Modest Proposal

A Modest Proposal
by Dr. Jonathan Swift

Originally published in 1729
8 pages

Hmm … not exactly sure what to say about this. In fact, I’m going to suggest that you hop over to Rebecca Read’s review and read before you continue reading this post. She does a great job of analyzing this satirical essay. Had it not been for the fact that I read her review a while back, I would have been completely confused when I read this essay.

~ Ok, I’ll assume you’ve read her review and are back now. ~

I picked this up because it is on the 1,001 Books list and because it is very short. I’d like to know WHY it is on the list though. Is it because it is such a good example of satire? Maybe, but I still found it decidedly unpleasant.

In this essay Swift proposes to solve Ireland’s population and economic problems in the following manner:

A portion of all babies will, at age 1, be sold for food. Their parents would sell them willingly, because they would have enough children to feed/clothe already and because they would get a decent sum of money for their infant. The buyers would be the wealthy who would then serve the meat as a delicacy. This solves the problems of overpopulation (especially Catholic overpopulation) and begging, and also puts money back into the economy.

Yeah, like I said, decidedly unpleasant. Without Rebecca’s review in my mind, I would have been completely disgusted with this essay. As it is, I still didn’t like it at all.

If you didn’t listen to me before, I do suggest you go over and read Rebecca’s review. She’s makes a lot more sense than I do on this one.


Rebecca Reid said...

The first time I read this (for a class in school), I found it laugh-out-loud funny. But there is something about life now that just isn't so funny.

I'd have to say it probably is on the lists because it's such a good example -- everything he suggests is a commentary on the way the wealthy live as compared to the poor. It's just harder to understand the irony since we don't live in that era...

Sorry you didn't like it at all! I hope your next read is more of a winner!

Nan said...

I hate Swift. If he was the only writer, I wouldn't be a reader. :<) With regard to lists, I read the following on someone's blog last year, and it seems quite apropos.

"Reading for enjoyment is what we should all be doing. I don’t mean we should all be reading chick lit or thrillers (although if that’s what you want to read, it’s fine by me, because here’s something else no one will ever tell you: if you don’t read the classics, or the novel that won this year’s Booker Prize, then nothing bad will happen to you; more importantly, nothing good will happen to you if you do); I simply mean that turning the pages should not be like walking through thick mud. The whole purpose of books is that we read them, and if you find you can’t, it might not be your inadequacy that’s to blame. “Good” books can be pretty awful sometimes."
Nick Hornby, Housekeeping Vs. The Dirt

Amanda said...

Oh I love hearing everyone's thoughts on this! I took a history of Ireland class in college and I remember that this just stood out so much. I think when we think of satire we think it's supposed to be funny. He didn't mean for it to be funny. He was Irish and took what was happening to his people very seriously. They were treated lower than low by many English people at the time and they had virtually no help from their governemnt. This was a short and powerful blast to the English that, really, the Irish people really had no alternatives to their plight. I think it's supposed to make you cringe.

Ok. Not supposed to be a rant :) Ha! But I too am confused why it's on this "book" list because it's really not a book, a novel, or a story. Hmmm.

Anna said...

I haven't read this since high school. I remember reading it and not getting it, and when the teacher talked about it being satire, I wondered what was so entertaining about it. I don't remember anything about it, though, so I can't really comment too much. But I don't plan on reading it again. LOL

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