A Modest Proposal Summary
This book by Jonathan Swift is full of satire. As the book begins, the narrator notes that the people of Ireland are going through hard times economically. Many women are walking in the streets, begging because they do not have anything to eat. These women have children, but they cannot feed them. The proposer insists that the problems are likely to persist since the children will also resort to begging when they grow up. However, the narrator has a plan which can make the problems people are going through more manageable.
After several years of brainstorming and weighing the proposals from the other citizens, the proposer feels that the solutions these people have in mind are not good enough for the country. The proposer does some calculations to come up with a solution that might work in his view. According to his opinion, any beggar can afford to support a child for one year. Therefore, the parents should manage to keep their children for that long. After that, the parent should leave the responsibility of taking care if the kid. There are various statistics that the proposer comes up with. In his estimation, Ireland has 200,000 couples who are fertile and are in the process of reproduction. Out of the total number, 15% of these couples can adequately provide for the children they bear. 25%, which translates to 50,000 of these couples lose their children through miscarriage while others die before their first birthday. With that, it means that 120,000 couples cannot take care of their children. What does that mean to the proposer? Every year, 120,000 children are born in conditions of abject poverty.
Given that the Irish people do not involve themselves in agriculture, neither do they build houses, there is no craft that these children can learn and sustain themselves later. At the same time, they are still too young to provide for themselves. Additionally, they are too young to be sold as slaves. With that in mind, the proposer comes up with one plan that he is sure can work. He has an American friend who says that the meat of an infant that is 1-year old is sweet. In his suggestion, 20,000 of the 120,000 children that live in squalor condition should be reserved to maintain the population of Ireland. The remaining 100,000 should be properly breastfed for one year and sold to wealthy people. They can then be eaten by these ‘wealthy landlords’ who are viewed as the main cause of the poverty of the parents of these infants. In the proposer’s view, the sale of these infants can yield profits for the mothers. Additionally, the hides from these children can also be used to make beautiful gloves.
The narrator goes ahead to justify why he thinks his proposition is worth being implemented. There is a suggestion that young teenagers can also be added to the infants as their flesh taste like deer meat. There has been a steep decline in the population of the deer as the Irish population is hunting them. However, the proposition of the teenagers does not go down well with the narrator. Apart from the fact that teenage meat is not as tender as that of the infants, it also comes out as a cruel move. He justifies the proposition as an idea that came from George Psalmanazar, who got the idea from an incident that took place in Formosa. In the story, a woman accused of treason was executed. The members who were in the court then consumed her flesh. This story makes the proposer feel that some women who are in the country should also go through the same experience.
However, there is one weakness; the infants are to be sold to wealthy people. While the poor children are catered for, no provision improves the lives of those who are sick, those in advanced age, people with disability and the adults who are undergoing starvation in Ireland. It gets to a point where the question is no longer of concern to the proposer as he feels those who are aging or sick are moving towards their death. As a result, they will soon cease to be a bother for the country.
He goes ahead to enlist the advantages that the proposition has on the overall well-being of the country. The first merit is that the population of the Catholics is likely to reduce by a huge margin. In his view, the majority of the Catholics are wicked, and their increasing numbers is disadvantageous to the country. Though they claim they want to deal with the problems that people are going through, the Catholics are just pretenders. They have taken advantage of the fact that there are few Protestants in the country.
Secondly, the majority of the Irish people who were previously unable to pay their rent can cater for then using the proceeds from the sale of the infants. Besides, they can also offset the debts they had accumulated. The situations of the citizens had been made worse by the fact that the landlords had taken their cattle as collateral for the debts owed.
By the estimation of the proposer, the profits from the infant sale are likely to be in the region of 10,000 pounds annually. This is a good amount to circulate within the economy of the country. Besides, the infants are all from Ireland. That means there is no loss in the economy. They have sorted the fact that it is hard to export infants.
Parents who are not able to take care of their children are also catered for. They no longer have the burden of having to take care of the children till maturity. They take care of them for one year and sell them. After the sale, they can now rest easy as the infants are no longer their burden. They can now concentrate their effort on doing other things and put the money available to other uses.
Furthermore, the country will develop a unique tradition that is not experienced in other countries. With the tender meat from the infants, the cooks can feel that they are proficient enough in their trade. The delicacy can also ensure that business in the area of food boom. That is good for the food industry and the economy of the country in general. They can also have a new tasty addition to their diet. Therefore, people can be better when it comes to dietary and health matters. The country disserves such good tidings.
Besides, people can also feel more comfortable to marry. This is because those who previously felt that it is hard to take care of the children may now be attracted by the profits that the other people get when they sell their infants. With the women being prized possessions for the husbands, the men will have to treat the wives well because they are the source of the infants to be sold. With the shift, the wives will no longer be beaten. Consequently, cases of domestic violence can reduce or be completely eliminated. This is good for the country.
Given that the Irish people can now eat the flesh from the infants, the pork and beef that it has replaced can now be exported. That is additional income to the economy and something that was not there previously. The economy of this country can now improve.
At that point, the proposer does not envision any opposition to the plan that may sound worthwhile. There are those people he feels may see this plan as something that may lead to a reduction in the number of people in Ireland. However, the population decrease looks an advantage to the proposer. The other alternatives that he has heard from people do not look useful. The other plans include training people to be more moderate in their living, reducing the dependence on the goods that are imported, increasing the taxation on the landlords and encouraging the virtue of honesty among the shopkeepers. To him, these measures are not easy to execute. Those are policies that people have wasted most of their time thinking about. At the moment, the country is consumed in huge debts. The proposer’s plan seems to be the only way out of the problems that people currently face.
At the same time, the proposer predicts that there have to be people who would be bold enough to question the plan. To them, he wants them to answer one fundamental question, “Would it have been better if the current parents would have been sold at a young age or just left to go through the challenges in the country?” The proposer feels it is better to sell the infants. He finishes by insisting that he is sincere, given that he has nothing to gain from the plan because he does not have young children, and the wife can no longer give birth.