A response to A Modest Proposal

About Last Night...

Hey! What's up. How you guys doing? So, some of you may have noticed that I had a blog post up earlier that I quickly took down. I did that because I didn't like it. It felt sloppy and I wanted to rework it. So, in order to not make my page completely bereft of new content, I've decided to post this.

The Actual Post

This is actually related to my schoolwork. As part of my compulsory composition course, I need to weekly read two stories and or essays and write a response online based on a question the professor provides. Usually these stories follow the theme of dystopia, but for this one I had to read "A Modest Proposal" by Johnathon Swift. I know you guys probably don't care about homework, but tonight you do!

The question: “A Modest Proposal” is an ironic essay: the author deliberately writes what he does not mean. What is the real thesis? Is there more than one?

My response:

All satire, unlike more vulgar and universal forms of comedy, exists solely within a historical context. That is not to say it can not be universal; certainly eating babies for comedy has done nothing but flourish in our times, and perhaps you can apply the more subtle messages to our current existence, but I digress. The satirist mocks and lampoons popular figures, idols, ideals and phenomena either in the people's culture or in politics. Without the historical context, it is impossible to truly know, understand, and enjoy satire. I admit that each time I have read "A Modest Proposal" whatever humor it held escaped me because I lacked that context, and I still do. But, even if the true context requires research that I will not do, an appropriate one may still be divined by looking at the text, analyzing its implications, and accepting the ironic equivalent. Pardon me as I take a sort of anthropological approach to the text. Being a composition course, you will forgive me for being in anyway historically inaccurate.

First, the nature of the proposal; it is not wrong to assume that this is some governmental proposal. Seeing as the endeavor requires a restructuring of the law to allow the consumption of babes, the governing body of the commonwealth would need to support it. In this way we can assume that Swift is lampooning the trend of government policy. Perhaps the Kingdom has been responding to domestic problems in ways either incompetent or slightly malicious. Being referred to as a Kingdom, perhaps Ireland at the time was ruled by some tyrannic figure, and Swift, in an attempt to subtly point out the circumstance in a way that would not result in him executed for treason, wrote his Proposal out of subtleties and allegorials for the consumption of the foreign intelligentsia.

But what problem needs solving? Swift opens with a description of the multitude of poor women being haunted by their starving children. Taking into consideration the method by which I will be analyzing this text, the ironic equivalent to this circumstance is that the Dictatorship of Ireland is in fact in a state of overwealth. My first impulse is to disregard this idea, as the Irish have never been wealthy, but history requires a strong imagination as well as intense research. Lacking the latter, I am forced to make due with an abundance of the former. Carrying on! The streets are over run with rich, healthy bachelors. Dublin was a sort of Yuppie-Wonderland the likes of which Patrick Bateman, the Irish protagonist in the modern day "Modest Proposal" American Psycho, could not possibly imagine. As an equivalent to the imagery of children, the result of successful heterosexual relation, perhaps the society Swift lives in is dominated by a homosexual vibe. It makes sense; without the burden of children, these men are allowed to gather their wealth, make it grow.

So it is only logical that the consumption of these delicious, nourishing children by the upper crust gentlemen, as described by Swift, is a metaphor for the gays consuming and destroying the proper values of christian society. But wait! If the poor in this allegory represents the rich, then clearly the rich must represent the poor! So the rich consuming the babes in this case exists as a stand in for the poor taking the sustenance, the frivolous lifestyle, of the gay aristocracy away from them. Toppling them, as it were.

In the text, Swift spins his spiel so as to appear in favor of and beneficent to the upper class. But, as we have already established, the upper class needed no help in this fabulous utopia of theirs. Rather, it is the poor, the despondent of society that needed helping, healing, nourishing. In the text, it is the poor who give their produce to the rich through fair and just market. So, correctly we assume the course of action Swift suggests was for the poor to take, perhaps by force, the sustenance of the wealthy. And what sustains the wealthy? Money. Swift wants to take the wealth of the few and distribute it to the many, a sort of early socialist revolution.

But, perhaps most important, is the between the lines reverence for the Papacy. In this case we must remember the pragmatic nature of this proposal: Swift does not want to die, and so he makes references to the goodly destruction of potentially papist children. What he doesn't say is that he is in full support of the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church. Again, we consider the ironic equivalent of attacking the Papacy is exulting the Papacy. The Pope, staunchly anti-homosexual, would clearly hold disdain for the flagrantly sinful society that is 18th century Ireland. In that way, the government must surely reciprocate the animosity. So any support for the infamous Catholic Church would brand Swift a treasoner followed by a quick sentencing.

So let's review: Jonathon Swift lives in an autocratic, tyrannical, secular society whose current governance serves to benefit the rich, homosexual bachelors that make up the upper class at the expense of the poor. Swift wants a violent uprising of the proletariat to seize Pluto's wealth and distribute amongst themselves. He wrote this proposal as a way to beg for help from foreign benefactors, as he can not enact change himself for fear of mortal endangerment. He wrote the Proposal in a allegorical, convoluted manner to escape the notice of the governance (implying a lack of intellect within the kingship). The Proposal iterated throughout Europe, eventually landing in the land of the intelligent and industrious: Germany. Under the careful study of the intelligentsia, a sort of mental trend spouted in Germany, developing over the years and generations until final culmination in the mind of a certain Karl Marx. And so, through deep and thorough analysis, we have discovered a new cog in the growth and spread of the beast Communism.

May I modestly propose that we find and burn or otherwise destroy all copies of this text, so as to halt the spread of such undesirable and distressing philosophies.

7 Comments
8 Comments
Posted by Beforet

About Last Night...

Hey! What's up. How you guys doing? So, some of you may have noticed that I had a blog post up earlier that I quickly took down. I did that because I didn't like it. It felt sloppy and I wanted to rework it. So, in order to not make my page completely bereft of new content, I've decided to post this.

The Actual Post

This is actually related to my schoolwork. As part of my compulsory composition course, I need to weekly read two stories and or essays and write a response online based on a question the professor provides. Usually these stories follow the theme of dystopia, but for this one I had to read "A Modest Proposal" by Johnathon Swift. I know you guys probably don't care about homework, but tonight you do!

The question: “A Modest Proposal” is an ironic essay: the author deliberately writes what he does not mean. What is the real thesis? Is there more than one?

My response:

All satire, unlike more vulgar and universal forms of comedy, exists solely within a historical context. That is not to say it can not be universal; certainly eating babies for comedy has done nothing but flourish in our times, and perhaps you can apply the more subtle messages to our current existence, but I digress. The satirist mocks and lampoons popular figures, idols, ideals and phenomena either in the people's culture or in politics. Without the historical context, it is impossible to truly know, understand, and enjoy satire. I admit that each time I have read "A Modest Proposal" whatever humor it held escaped me because I lacked that context, and I still do. But, even if the true context requires research that I will not do, an appropriate one may still be divined by looking at the text, analyzing its implications, and accepting the ironic equivalent. Pardon me as I take a sort of anthropological approach to the text. Being a composition course, you will forgive me for being in anyway historically inaccurate.

First, the nature of the proposal; it is not wrong to assume that this is some governmental proposal. Seeing as the endeavor requires a restructuring of the law to allow the consumption of babes, the governing body of the commonwealth would need to support it. In this way we can assume that Swift is lampooning the trend of government policy. Perhaps the Kingdom has been responding to domestic problems in ways either incompetent or slightly malicious. Being referred to as a Kingdom, perhaps Ireland at the time was ruled by some tyrannic figure, and Swift, in an attempt to subtly point out the circumstance in a way that would not result in him executed for treason, wrote his Proposal out of subtleties and allegorials for the consumption of the foreign intelligentsia.

But what problem needs solving? Swift opens with a description of the multitude of poor women being haunted by their starving children. Taking into consideration the method by which I will be analyzing this text, the ironic equivalent to this circumstance is that the Dictatorship of Ireland is in fact in a state of overwealth. My first impulse is to disregard this idea, as the Irish have never been wealthy, but history requires a strong imagination as well as intense research. Lacking the latter, I am forced to make due with an abundance of the former. Carrying on! The streets are over run with rich, healthy bachelors. Dublin was a sort of Yuppie-Wonderland the likes of which Patrick Bateman, the Irish protagonist in the modern day "Modest Proposal" American Psycho, could not possibly imagine. As an equivalent to the imagery of children, the result of successful heterosexual relation, perhaps the society Swift lives in is dominated by a homosexual vibe. It makes sense; without the burden of children, these men are allowed to gather their wealth, make it grow.

So it is only logical that the consumption of these delicious, nourishing children by the upper crust gentlemen, as described by Swift, is a metaphor for the gays consuming and destroying the proper values of christian society. But wait! If the poor in this allegory represents the rich, then clearly the rich must represent the poor! So the rich consuming the babes in this case exists as a stand in for the poor taking the sustenance, the frivolous lifestyle, of the gay aristocracy away from them. Toppling them, as it were.

In the text, Swift spins his spiel so as to appear in favor of and beneficent to the upper class. But, as we have already established, the upper class needed no help in this fabulous utopia of theirs. Rather, it is the poor, the despondent of society that needed helping, healing, nourishing. In the text, it is the poor who give their produce to the rich through fair and just market. So, correctly we assume the course of action Swift suggests was for the poor to take, perhaps by force, the sustenance of the wealthy. And what sustains the wealthy? Money. Swift wants to take the wealth of the few and distribute it to the many, a sort of early socialist revolution.

But, perhaps most important, is the between the lines reverence for the Papacy. In this case we must remember the pragmatic nature of this proposal: Swift does not want to die, and so he makes references to the goodly destruction of potentially papist children. What he doesn't say is that he is in full support of the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church. Again, we consider the ironic equivalent of attacking the Papacy is exulting the Papacy. The Pope, staunchly anti-homosexual, would clearly hold disdain for the flagrantly sinful society that is 18th century Ireland. In that way, the government must surely reciprocate the animosity. So any support for the infamous Catholic Church would brand Swift a treasoner followed by a quick sentencing.

So let's review: Jonathon Swift lives in an autocratic, tyrannical, secular society whose current governance serves to benefit the rich, homosexual bachelors that make up the upper class at the expense of the poor. Swift wants a violent uprising of the proletariat to seize Pluto's wealth and distribute amongst themselves. He wrote this proposal as a way to beg for help from foreign benefactors, as he can not enact change himself for fear of mortal endangerment. He wrote the Proposal in a allegorical, convoluted manner to escape the notice of the governance (implying a lack of intellect within the kingship). The Proposal iterated throughout Europe, eventually landing in the land of the intelligent and industrious: Germany. Under the careful study of the intelligentsia, a sort of mental trend spouted in Germany, developing over the years and generations until final culmination in the mind of a certain Karl Marx. And so, through deep and thorough analysis, we have discovered a new cog in the growth and spread of the beast Communism.

May I modestly propose that we find and burn or otherwise destroy all copies of this text, so as to halt the spread of such undesirable and distressing philosophies.

Posted by Video_Game_King

@Beforet said:

So, some of you may have noticed that I had a blog post up earlier that I quickly took down.

Was it the Planescape thing?

Posted by ShadowConqueror

Babies are delicious.

Posted by Beforet

@Video_Game_King said:

@Beforet said:

So, some of you may have noticed that I had a blog post up earlier that I quickly took down.

Was it the Planescape thing?

Yeah. I didn't like it! Technical difficulties and panic made me rush the thing. I'm rethinking the whole concept. I want to continue that series, I just don't know how.

Posted by mandude

So the implicit nature of the work, also has its own implicit nature? Am I, perhaps, to believe that your counter-proposal has within itself, its own subtext?

Posted by Beforet

@mandude said:

So the implicit nature of the work, also has its own implicit nature? Am I, perhaps, to believe that your counter-proposal has within itself, its own subtext?

I'm just being cute. It's a dystopia class; I'm trying to emulate the logic a dystopic government might use to destroy a critique on poor government. The core of this is me having too much fun with a busywork assignment. Not that you can't draw some parallels with the current. That's what makes good satire: being able to apply outside its original context.

Posted by mandude
@Beforet: Ah, well that makes sense, but I guess in a sense, they already beat you to it, what with the citizens wildly misunderstanding it at the time...
Posted by bwmcmaste

@Beforet said:

I'm just being cute. It's a dystopia class; I'm trying to emulate the logic a dystopic government might use to destroy a critique on poor government. The core of this is me having too much fun with a busywork assignment. Not that you can't draw some parallels with the current. That's what makes good satire: being able to apply outside its original context.

Well, you've certainly seized a particular flavor of subtext, with a thoroughly polemical style in execution; quite appropriate considering the literature and context in question.