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In making his argument, the speaker uses the conventional, text book approved order of argument from Swift’s time (Lewis 139).The contrast between the “careful control against the almost inconceivable perversion of his scheme” and “the ridiculousness of the proposal” create a situation in which the reader has “to consider just what perverted values and assumptions would allow such a diligent, thoughtful, and conventional man to propose so perverse a plan.” (Lewis 139) Some scholars have argued that “A Modest Proposal” was largely influenced and inspired by Tertullian’s Apology.
In structure, Johnson points out the same central theme; that of cannibalism and the eating of babies; and the same final argument; that “human depravity is such that men will attempt to justify their own cruelty by accusing their victims of being lower than human.” In agreement with Johnson, Donald C.
Baker points out the similarity between both author’s tones and use of irony.
Critics differ about Swift’s intentions in using this faux-mathematical philosophy.
Edmund Wilson argues that statistically “the logic of the "Modest proposal" can be compared with Marx's defense of crime in which he argues that crime takes care of the superfluous population”.
Swift’s specific strategy is twofold, using a “trap” (Lewis 135) to create sympathy for the Irish and a dislike of the narrator who, in the span of one sentence, “details vividly and with rhetorical emphasis the grinding poverty” but feels emotion solely for members of his own class.
Swift’s use of gripping details of poverty and his narrator’s cool approach towards them creates “two opposing points of view” which “alienate the reader, perhaps unconsciously, from a narrator who can view with 'melancholy' detachment a subject that Swift has directed us, rhetorically, to see in a much less detached way.” (Lewis 136) Swift has his proposer further degrade the Irish by using language ordinarily reserved for animals.Most critics have been reluctant to analyze the targets of Swift’s A Modest Proposal because of a misreading of Swift’s intentions.According to Wittkowsky, critics wrongly assumed that A Modest Proposal targeted conditions in Ireland, One of Swift’s overarching targets in A Modest Proposal was the can-do spirit of the times that led people to devise a number of illogical schemes that would purportedly solve social and economic ills.It is no longer true, as it was in Swift's time, that any educated reader would be familiar with the satires of Horace and Juvenal, and so recognize that Swift's essay follows the rules and structure of Latin satires.The satirical element of the pamphlet is often only understood after the reader notes the allusions made by Swift to the attitudes of landlords, such as the following: "I grant this food may be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for Landlords, who as they have already devoured most of the Parents, seem to have the best Title to the Children." Swift extends the metaphor to get in a few jibes at England’s mistreatment of Ireland, noting that "For this kind of commodity will not bear exportation, and flesh being of too tender a consistence, to admit a long continuance in salt, although perhaps I could name a country, which would be glad to eat up our whole nation without it." In the tradition of Roman satire, Swift introduces the reforms he is actually suggesting by deriding them: Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: Of taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound: Of using neither clothes, nor household furniture, except what is of our own growth and manufacture: Of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury: Of curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women: Of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence and temperance: Of learning to love our country, wherein we differ even from Laplanders, and the inhabitants of Topinamboo: Of quitting our animosities and factions, nor acting any longer like the Jews, who were murdering one another at the very moment their city was taken: Of being a little cautious not to sell our country and consciences for nothing: Of teaching landlords to have at least one degree of mercy towards their tenants.Baker notes the uncanny way that both authors imply an ironic “justification by ownership” over the subject of sacrificing children—Tertullian while attacking pagan parents, and Swift while attacking the English mistreatment of the Irish poor.Swift's essay serves as an example of how satire works.There are two distinct voices in the piece; the voice of Swift and the voice of the Proposer.The Proposer engages in a straight-forward economic calculation as if he were counting beans.Swift was especially insulted by projects that tried to fix population and labor issues with a simple cure-all solution.to try and prove the utter ridiculousness of trying to prove any proposal with dispassionate statistics.