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ENG305H1 (19)
Lecture

ENG305 121114.docx

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Department
English
Course
ENG305H1
Professor
Jennifer Harris
Semester
Fall

Description
Modest Proposal – Swift  It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads, and cabin doors, crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags and importuning every passenger for an alms. These mothers, instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in strolling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants: who as they grow up either turn thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbadoes.  I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.  I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.  I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration that of the hundred and twenty thousand children already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed, whereof only one-fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle or swine; and my reason is, that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our savages, therefore one male will be sufficient to serve four females. That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in the sale to the persons of quality and fortune through the kingdom; always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.  Irish natives – don’t read English, so not readers of this… peasants, Catholics and had land confiscated by English settlers  English settlers – Swift’s readers, directing modest proposal… Anglo-Irish, Protestants, don’t care for native Irish and don’t want to be confused with them but consider selves Irish because lived there for so long… exploit peasants, land not cultivated, landlords… spending money on English goods  Irish government – colonial legislature, enacting punitive economic bills… forbid Irish to export to English… disastrous market  Reducing people to materialistic commodities… abortions seen as financial choice rather than moral, women as breeders vs babies as dropped like from dam… statistical population  Belief that poor are poor because it’s their fault in the day… Swift’s realistic and un-ironic description of poor condition  To ask what effect rhetoric was supposed to have on readers rather than what Swift meant  Ironic and sarcastic reading of essay  Assumptions that cannibalism would be seen as unreal (black humor), and that Swift somehow felt bad for the poor (essay mocks heartlessness of Irish peasants)  Swift did not have sympathy for poor o Reading proposal as if speaker was serious… Swift prob not suggest people should really eat babies but at the same time, can’t say he didn’t mean it o Attitudes to the poor o Capital punishment to steal… so no mercy for poor… but could opt to be shipped to Americas as criminal rather than be hanged o These kinds of proposals advocate to round up peasants and force into labour, not pay… so build English industries and become superpower o Swift write pamphlet suggesting poor wear badges so they can’t travel… sincerely advocate this law – if poor travel, can be whipped and kicked out o half-jokingly half-seriously suggest Irish peasants be shipped like African slaves o so it is mistaken assumption that Swift feels sympathy for poor o believe Irish peasants part of problem (not outside of satire universe), their own fault that they are poor  Irish peasants described in way native Americans were described… not same race as Anglo-Irish or Irish… o Indians in Ireland o Savages -> cannibals o Associated with animalistic behaviours o Reports of corpses being found with faces green -> suggest die trying to eat grass o Contempt, Irish like cattle… Yahoos in Gulliver – represent Irish… Irish also eat horsemeat and birds of prey o Gulliver offended by Yahoos eating rotting flesh/any flesh they see o Cannibalism widely reported at the time o Swift did not want to be confused with the savage people… hated going into Ireland and having to identify with them (like Gulliver doesn’t want to return and be associated with Yahoos) o Ireland as land of slaves… see all Irish, including Anglo-Irish, as savage… doesn’t want to be associated as Anglo-Irish even though he is one; intentional slurring of racial
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