A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

Topics: Books

George Orwell was born in 1903 in India where his family were members of the upper middle class. He was educated at Eton but refused to attend a higher education establishment but never the less was still very well educated. He joined the Burma Police Force instead for a six-year stretch. When Orwell returned to England, he began his writing career and produced some of his most famous works. His inspiration was the political state of Europe with dictators such as Hitler and Stalin dominant.

This led to the novella ‘Animal Farm’, which was written in 1944.

It shows Orwell’s disgust with Stalin’s “style of socialism”. Animal Farm was very controversial as the state of the USSR was admired by many socialists of the time; thus his publisher Victor Gollancz refused to accept it, as did T. S. Eliot and Jonathan Cape before Martin Secker & Warburg, Ltd finally accepted it in 1945. This slowed the publishing of the novella by eighteen months.

It is possible to trace the origins of ‘Animal Farm’ back to Orwell’s spell of fighting in the Spanish Civil War. He saw himself primarily as a political writer.

A democratic socialist, who avoided party labels, hated totalitarianism and he became progressively disillusioned with methods of communism, his plain, colloquial style made him a highly effective pamphleteer and journalist. One of his first pamphlets was called ‘ Inside the Whale’ (1940). Out of all Orwell’s work Animal Farm is still the most famous and the way it deals with political satire.

Get quality help now
Marrie pro writer

Proficient in: Books

5 (204)

“ She followed all my directions. It was really easy to contact her and respond very fast as well. ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

Both Swift and Orwell mixed in literary circles, Swift with writers such as Steele, Addison, Congreve and Pope. Orwell with T. S. Eliot, Cyril and Virginia Wolf.

Jonathan Swift was born in 1667 in Dublin where he was educated at Trinity College. Swift’s family originated in England, but then settled in Ireland, due his family’s strong Protestant background, although he did support Catholic’s as well, as shown in Modest Proposal threw no separation of the poor, into religious beliefs. In 1689 Swift became private secretary to William Temple who introduced him to the literary, political and aristocratic circles of the time. It was from Temple’s style that Swift developed his literary powers and got involved in political affairs.

During his time with Temple, Swift wrote three satires ‘A Tale of a Tub, ‘The battle of books and ‘Discoveries concerning the mechanical operation of spirit’. Swift became vicar of Laracor in Ireland but kept returning to England where he was heavily involved in politics. After Temple died Swift, began to produce pamphlets. In 1701 he wrote one praising the conduct of the Whig, or liberal leaders. This work, ‘A discourse of the contest and dissensions between the nobles and commons in Athens and Rome’. The majority of Swift’s literary pieces are based on real people and events.

For example ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ (1726), lampooned the Whigs as the little men while his friend’s the Tories took the form of Gulliver. From this point on Swift focused his energy on Irish affairs. ‘A Modest Proposal’ was written in 1729, as a pamphlet discussing the political state of Ireland at the time. ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘a modest Proposal’ are written in entirely different genres. Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, is written in the novella genre, more specifically as an extended fairy story. The novella is an allegorical representation of events in Russia following the fall of the Tsar in 1917.

It mainly focuses on Stalin’s government of the country from the 1920s to the end of the Second World War. The story can also be taken as a more general attack on and analysis of the search for power and the way in which corrupt figures can gain and manipulate for their own purposes. The animal’s revolution directly mirrors the Russian Revolution; the animals over throw the humans, Just as the Bolshevik Party over threw the Romanov Dynasty. Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal’ is written as a political pamphlet, arguing an expedient solution to the problem of poverty among Ireland’s poor.

One of sixty plus pieces on Irish affairs Swift wrote after 1920. The pamphlet can be broken down into six sections. To begin with Swift sets out the problem, which is the overcrowding in Dublin, this is followed by his solution to sell yearling children of the poor, to the wealthy for food. In the next section Swift digresses and talks about how his suggestion can be executed. In the following section a list of advantages is given for the reader. Section five gives the reader some reasons why no other solutions will work.

The final section is Swift’s disclaimer, this covers him for has previously been said. Swift’s satirical writing gives him the freedom to taunt the government of the time, with his appalling proposal. George Orwell’s style in ‘Animal Farm’ is a novella as opposed to a pamphlet like Modest Proposal. This is noticeable through the narrative form, characters and a theme. The theme, corruption of power differs to Modest Proposal that concentrates not so much on corruption but an attack on the selfish misuse of power.

E. g. Swift thought of himself as English. At the time of the Battle of the Boyne, when William defeated James II in 1690 (the Glorious Revolution had been peaceful in England but bloody in Ireland), Swift was with Temple in Surrey. Yet after this time he became increasingly known as an Irish patriot. What he experienced in Ireland was very similar to the experience of the American colonists under George III – all the disadvantages of direct rule from London, and none of advantages.

Since no politician in England gave much thought to Ireland, the land was bled by absentee landlords, denied fair trading terms and ruled by second-rate officials who could behave irresponsibly with no one to care about the consequences. Corruption is shown almost immediately through Old Major and his commandments, which act as a motif, misleading the animals into believing what he says is best for them. To begin with he tells the animals “All animals are equal” then the 7 commandments are abridged for the last time simply reading, “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”.

At this point the pigs are behaving like humans: buying newspapers, smoking and wearing clothes. Although from the beginning the animals are anthropomorphic but still retain enough animal characteristics for them to be credible as farm animals. The pigs take this to the extreme. The authorial voice in ‘Animal Farm’ is that of a storyteller writing in a traditional format. Simple detail is paid to characters and setting for example references to the farm and immediate identification with the animals: “The hens perched themselves on the window -sills, the pigeons fluttered up to the rafters… Simple and straight forward.

‘Animal Farm’ follows a conventional narrative structure. The narrator tells its events in chronological order. The story itself contains a believable mixture of human and animal characters- even when the human characters are seen to clearly understand what the animals are saying- for example, when Pilkington makes his to Napoleon speech at the end of the novel, the reader believes that the two understand each other. The repetition of various ideas and images forms a pattern in the text.

In particular Major’s speech at the start of the novella is echoed and referred to throughout the novella, to provide a standard by which the pigs’ actions are judged. The placing of the speech at the start of the novella, means that the reader shares the animals’ enthusiasm for the vision of the future and becomes progressively more disappointed as the novella continues and we see those ideals destroyed: we are told several times that the animals work like ‘slaves’.

The novella is aimed at the masses, as it is cleverly written to reach the population on a number of levels; one being the message that not everything you are told by the authoritarian figure shouldn’t be believed and trusted. Animal Farm’s purpose is to highlight the corruption of power in the USSR under Stalin. ‘A Modest proposal’ however addresses only the educated middle classes. The authorial voice in ‘A Modest Proposal’ is of an English economist, spoken in a matter-of-fact manner leading the audience into agreement with the argument, and then giving a massive blow with his actual proposal, the shock of undeniable cannibalism.

E. g. “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”. It could be argued that Orwell’s writing directly descends fro that of Swift’s simple, straightforward and concise. The format of ‘Animal Farm’ consists of very little dialogue, it is written in story form similar to a children’s storybook with a lot of information condensed into a few words. Orwell makes a statement and leaves it! The plot carries forward at a rapid rate and doesn’t get involved in small affairs.

Orwell allows events to speak for themselves. There are no lengthy sentences introspective passages or emotional feelings. It has an objective style with the reader always kept at arms length. The humans in the novel are stereotypical as is shown on page 41 with Mr Whymer the greedy lawyer “He was a sly-looking little man…. ” Orwell’s simplistic child-like style shows through with his explanation of what a cheque is. It is almost biblical in its simplicity. Biblical overtones appear again with the commandments, which equates to animalism 7 deadly sins.

Swift uses syllogism in his proposal. He turns argument on its head to state the following: If starving children are killed at one year old. The children can help to feed the state. Therefore by the end of his proposal he states starving children can benefit the state. This is a style of argument, which shows Swift’s indebtedness to Rabelais, who made much of this type of turning a point of view on its head. Another technique of Swift’s is to write in character e. g. Gulliver’s Travels where he writes as a seafaring man on his travels.

In Modest Proposal Swift writes as an economist. Therefore the horror of the proposal can be stated in all its shocking detail since it is no more horrible than the horrors already existing and which are sanctioned by that social group, which are the audience of the pamphlet. The educated and well to do classes who had been instrumental in passing the laws which had made Ireland so poverty stricken. Which gives the ultimate irony of ‘A Modest Proposal’! Reference to the oppressive laws, which the protestant parliament in London hand inflicted on catholic Ireland.

Another technique in Modest Proposal is Swift developed one idea by continued reference to another so that every statement was double edged. E. g. “I have already computed the charge …. its for the carcass of a good fat child”. The horrors are all the more effective because they are presented in such a matter of fact ‘voice’, they are introduced easily as evidence to support a rational argument. The appeal is to the reader’s practical reasonableness no attempt is made to incite pity or indignation, it is only at the end that he makes a full frontal.

Swift like every writer has his critics. A. Humphrey’s says that he favours the intellectual “exercise of forming a link between idea and image” He puts forward the idea that Ireland is in desperate straits with the poor, and links this with the image of how the Irish poor live. Following on from this is the idea that the problem can be solved, which leads to the image of yearling children, being fattened for the table. “a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food… ” D.

W Jefferson argues that too much emphasis has been placed on the simplicity of Swift’s style. But he sees this style as having a wider purpose a) it follows the be Augustan style which stressed the need for clarity of expression but b) this simple style was essential for Swift because he was often putting over a simple tale i. e. simply told ‘Gullivers Travels’. This is also apparent in Modest Proposal where he takes on the persona of an economist who is setting out a list as it were of the economic status quo to follow it with a list of proposals to improve the situation.

To concentrate on style in his manner however is to ignore the comic and sometimes-hilarious wit that Swift can show. For this he is indebted to Rabelais, Donne and Jonnson. E. g. In ‘Tale of Tub’ he leans heaverily on Rabelais by the way in which he exploits ideas to build up comedy and by the way he misapplies learned ideas to support an audacious conclusion. Whilst the wit in Modest Proposal is not of the same satirical play on words as ‘Animal Farm’, it does none the less have a strong bite to it. E. g. in ‘Animal Farm.

We laugh at the animals, as the thought of a pig climbing up a ladder with a paintbrush in his trotter is amusing. Where as in Modest Proposal when the idea of stewing, roasting, baking or boiling a child is put across at first this is disturbing but taking it into context it is a witty description of a horrific suggestion. Many critics would argue that the greatest satire in English Language is Jonathan Swift’s a “A Modest Proposal,” but because Swift and his narrator are so tightly intertwined, even sophisticated readers often emerge form their confused.

He attacks his own Protestant, English community by creating a narrator who considers himself a reasonable and compassionate fellow, but who combines a repulsive anti-Catholic bigotry with “modest” proposal that is actually a “final solution”; he advocates cannibalism as a means countering Irish Catholic poverty, abortion, and the high birth rate. Orwell’s writing style descends directly from that of Swift the Augustan style of writing has been inherited through the centuries. Both literary pieces are political satires, portraying a government of the their time.

Swift’s is aimed at the upper class politicians in Ireland, where as Orwell’s is suitable for all ages yet still has a powerful message hidden within its meaning. Written in different genres to reflect was acceptable at the time of writing and the style they are written in. The problems that Orwell encountered when attempting to publish his novella are no means extinct, a twenty first novelist is still encountering these troubles as her novel is a political satire, that is satirising the current British government and their policies and conduct.

Carole Hayman’s “Hard Choices” is said to be ” an inappropriate determination to satirise New Labour when Tony Blair is doing so much for America! ” The novella is futuristic set in 2010. So even today in a society that is said to have evolved and accepts most things and people the literary world is still encountering problems. In conclusion both Swift and Orwell’s pieces have fulfilled their intent to, instruct the public about the corruption that has in the past taken place within ruling parties and their level of power.

Cite this page

A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift. (2017, Sep 23). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/paper-on-modest-proposal-jonathan-swift-animal-farm-george-orwell-2/

A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7