Modest Proposal Study Questions

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					English 350: Age of Revolution Study Questions: Set 4 Polya Yankova To complete this set, answer any 10 of the following questions or pairs of questions. 1. Understanding that “A Modest Proposal” follows the form of a problemsolution argument, what can you infer about the real-life situation that is set forth (in paragraphs 1-7) as the problem before the solution is proposed? The poet presents us a typical issue for that period as explaining in his paragraphs (1-7) what the real worry is and what will be the danger for the country. England is very dangerous country with big population full of beggars, mostly women and kids. What he shows us is why kids are forced to beg in the streets, not relying on their parents for food. 2. What significant traits of character or psychology or what significant assumptions about politics or economics does the “projector” (the ironic persona Swift has adopted in this essay) reveal before he makes his proposal explicit? That is, in paragraphs 1-7 of the essay, what do you notice about this persona‟s attitudes toward the problem he aims to solve, his reasons for wanting to solve it, his assumptions about what would constitute an appropriate solution, or his expectations about what kind of argument or evidence convince his audience to accept it? (Focus on what you notice as most striking. You do not need to give a complete list of what you noticed.) Swift wants to solve the problem as quickly because all this change the status and condition of his country (and himself). According to him, poor people shouldn‟t give birth because they do not have enough money to raise a child and the only thing they could do is walking in the streets and begging for charity. The scary argument is “they shall on the contrary contribute to the feeding, and partly on the clothing, of many thousands.” Ironically, Swift trying to explain one of the ways to help children, for example to sell them. He even calls them commodity that can not be sold before twelve years old. 3. What (if any) hints do you find in paragraphs 1-7 that the actual author (Swift) is setting up the impersonated projector as one target of his satire? And therefore how much of a shock do you think the proposal itself (as stated in paragraphs 9 and 10) should be to an alert first-time reader? Paragraphs 1-7 give us a clue about the brutal way out that Swift presents later. What happens in 9-10 is that Swift states his working out for the better use of kids. He leaves twenty thousand for breed (like with sheep, swine), Hundred thousand for sale stating that these kids are “seldom the fruits of marriage”. What is most dreadful about his suggestions is his offer for eating the poor kids; especially unspeakable is his recipe for cooking them. 4. Considering the reasons that the “projector” offers in paragraphs 11-16 as he demonstrates how reasonable his “modest proposal” is, how practical it will be to implement, and the additional public benefits that he enumerates in paragraphs 21-27 as further reasons to implement it, what (in addition to what

you may have inferred about his attitudes as revealed in paragraphs 1-7) can you infer about this persona‟s main concerns, values, or assumptions? 5. Based on your answers to questions 1, 2, 3, and 4 above, what do you think is the primary target of Swift‟s satire in making and pretending to justify this “modest proposal”? That is, what aspects of the real-life situation that he depicts or what features of the mentality represented by the fictitious projector he impersonates do you think it was Swift‟s main purpose to expose and attack here? Swift shows his position in this satire, which is against the newly born babies of poor parents that are rotating into a mass of beggars in the streets. The key goal of the text is to create a sense of compassion and understanding as showing us how depressed the life can be for the poor, and how good it can be for the riches. The life can be unfair for many people as well. 6. What “refinement” on the proposal does the projector say was suggested to him by a “very worthy person” in paragraph 17, what are the projector‟s reasons for rejecting it, and what defense of this “refinement” or “expedient” does he offer (in paragraph 18) despite his rejection of it? The „refinement” that his friend “the very worthy person” suppose is to use all the girls and boys, not exceeding fourteen, nor under twelve years old for the contribution of venison which is very useful with the lost of the deer. In paragraph 17 the author justifies himself as giving an example with the famous Psalmanazar, who suggests selling the carcass of plump young girls. 7. What concerns of certain “persons of a desponding spirit” does the projector mention in paragraph 19, and what reasons for optimism (that is, for being “not in the least pain upon that matter”) does he offer regarding these concerns? In paragraph 19 Swift mentions the trouble of the disabled and poor people that is hard for them to work normally and these people can only be a problem for the country because their labor if any, is unproductive and it is waste of time and what is more, “they are going to die soon”. So, the ruling class are responsible for this. But as he offers, he could do anything to “ease this encumbrance.” 8. What do you think is Swift‟s purpose in having his projector persona point out (in paragraph 29) that he “calculate[d his] remedy for this one individual Kingdom of Ireland, and for no other that ever was, is, or […] ever can be upon Earth”? Paragraph 29 gives the calculations that the projector did with respect to Ireland in order to tell us that this proposal was specially offered to Ireland and cannot be applicable in other kingdoms. Here he points out some possible ways that were introduced before: taxing truant landowners, rejecting “foreign luxury” and buying good manufactured in the country, reforming women‟s morality etc. His words in paragraph 29 calls the nation for patriotism, refusing “to sell our country and consciences for nothing” 9. Understanding that Jonathan Swift had actually argued in favor several of the “other expedients” listed in paragraph 29 (and rejected by the projector in as

unviable alternative solutions paragraph 30), what can you infer from this list about the political, economic, or ethical principles that the real-life Swift actually advocated? And to what extent do you think Swift shared the impersonated projector‟s pessimism regarding the possibility that there would ever be “some hearty and sincere attempt” to put any of these alternative solutions into practice? 10. What further hints about the projector‟s psychological condition or personal history (adding to those you may have noticed in paragraphs 1-7) are given in paragraph 31? Obviously, the projector strongly wants to find a way out of this difficulty, which is a problem of the entire country. He believes in his new proposal that it expresses the position of England as a whole. Swift is concerned about his country, he says: I have been wearied out for many years with offering vain, idle, visionary thoughts…” Now, having this Modest Proposal, Swift gives a new thought for getting out of the mud. 11. What, basically, is the question that the projector (in paragraph 32) “desire[s] those politicians who dislike my overture” to “first ask” before they “be so bold as to attempt an answer” to his proposal and publish their objections to it? And (considering your answer to question 5 and the second part of question 9 above) do you think that the real-life Swift and the projector persona expect different answers to this question? Swift disregards these actions as naïve and unrealistic. He is willing to listen other suggestions if they are “equally innocent, cheap, easy and effectual.” They should have be the answers of the key issues: poverty and childbirth. Swift considers those problems the most vital and critical ones and that is why politicians should play an important role in solving it. It is the real behavior of Swift – patriotic, civic-minded and designed to change the problem from the inside. Considering your answers to questions 5, 9, and 11 above, what do you think was Swift‟s purpose in writing this satire? That is, what (if any) positive changes does he seem to have been trying to promote, what (if any) effect on his readers does he seem to be trying to achieve, or what other purpose do you discern? With his Modest Proposal, Swift is calling attention to the extreme situation that the country has achieved.

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