Analysis Pages

Thesis in A Modest Proposal

The thesis of this proposal is twofold. First, there is the thesis of the speaker. The speaker presents the problem that Ireland is overpopulated by children whose parents cannot provide for them. His solution: to sell excess children to rich aristocrats as “delicious nourishing and wholesome food.” This thesis highlights the real claim of the essay, which comes from the satire of the speaker’s hyperbolic thesis: Ireland suffers because England treats them like a commodity rather than a population and the Irish are not creating effective solutions to their problems.

Thesis Examples in A Modest Proposal:

A Modest Proposal by Dr. Jonathan Swift

🔒 5

"particularly at weddings and christenings..."   (A Modest Proposal by Dr. Jonathan Swift)

The sixth point above and this line constitute Swift’s most subversive point regarding the moral and religious code in a Catholic country: marriage for the sake of raising children for food. This shocking incentive is further illustrated by proposing that children would also make an excellent food source at weddings and christenings. Considering that Swift himself was a Dean in the Church of England, we can see how far he is willing to push his satire in order to bring the Irish and the British to their senses.

"having of late destroyed their deer..."   (A Modest Proposal by Dr. Jonathan Swift)

In addition to blaming England for the conditions in Ireland, Swift continues to target the Irish gentry as being equally at fault for destroying many of the land's natural resources. Note how he crafts this subtle accusation into support for his proposal.

"it is of a much greater extent..."   (A Modest Proposal by Dr. Jonathan Swift)

Swift sets up his argument's stakes; that is, the reasons why his argument matters. Since he has already established the problem and made appeals to his readers, these stakes describe the breadth of his forthcoming proposal and provide an outline of how his proposal will benefit the Irish public.

"a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food..."   (A Modest Proposal by Dr. Jonathan Swift)

Notice how Swift constructs his claim in this sentence. Instead of simply stating that eating children would solve poverty, he heavily implies his thesis statement by recommending a gross list of cooking suggestions. He also tries to anticipate objection by suggesting that Americans, not being as refined as the English, would already have experience with children as a food product, therefore making his claim more reasonable.

"for we are told by a grave author, an eminent French physician,..."   (A Modest Proposal by Dr. Jonathan Swift)

In an effort to improve his argument, Swift utilizes another rhetorical strategy by appealing to an authority to add credibility to his plan. This is an ethos appeal. Despite the satirical nature of the essay, Swift is following all of the standard conventions to make his essay as persuasive as possible.

Analysis Pages