Swift chose to name his essay “A Modest Proposal.” How is it an understatement? How does it help support the main idea of his essay? Is it a good title? Why?

1 Answer
Dec 1, 2016

Swift's "Modest Proposal" wasn't at all!


Just something to keep in mind: Swift's "Modest Proposal" was a satirical essay. He didn't actually believe that we should sell babies for food. But he created a persona--a made-up character who holds certain ideas--to espouse that idea. The title is rather ironic and is definitely an understatement because eating babies is no small thing! However, Swift's persona still holds that it is "modest" because it supposedly has some benefits.

So is it a good title? It's a very good title! Again, this is satire, so Swift chooses an ironic title to emphasize just how drastic his proposal is. The whole goal of writing this was to highlight the problem of poverty. By proposing a drastic solution that no rational person would pass, he prompted people to see just how dire poverty is. His real goal was to convince people to help those in need. He was effectively saying "We need to help. No one's doing anything. So do you want to pass this crazy plan? No! Then do something about it!"