A Modest Proposal Essay Examples and Topics

by Jonathan Swift

Essay Examples
Essay Topics
Brief overview



Jonathan Swift





Major Characters

The main characters in the book A Modest Proposal are The Proposer, George Psalmanazar, The American, The Pretender, and A Very Worthy Person. The Proposer represents the class of people who seems neglected. He seems to be well educated and rich.

Based on

James William, the writer of the satirical essay A Modest Proposal was inspired by the book Tertullian’s Apology. It is about a satirical attack against the Roman government in the early days of Christianity.
The Roman government was persecuting Christians yet they were the very people the government expected to get taxes from. The writer of the essay saw a lot of similarities between the Roman situation and the Ireland situation.

  • A baby symbolizes the future and its promises
  • Satire – The story is satirical and describes the government as murdering and eating children to help the rich get wealthier.
  • Animals- the writer uses the symbol of animals such as pigs and sheep to symbolize the low status the poor Irish hold.

There are different ways the political class can use to educate their citizens about economic issues. One of them is satirical writing. Even as they educate the masses, they should take the issues of poverty and hunger seriously. The rich should accommodate the poor.


The story is presented as a disguise of an economic essay. The story proposes that the nation is working to alleviate poverty in Ireland by murdering children from poor families. They sell them to wealthy English bosses in exchange for food. The story is about how England uses its legal and economic power to exploit Ireland.

Main Ideas

The main idea in the story A Modest Proposal is how the government should relate to citizens in modesty. However, the government seems to favor the rich at the expense of the poor. In the midst of all that, there is someone sober enough to the things differently and try to propose reforms.

Key Quotes
  • Jonathan: "But as for me, after years of providing foolish, frivolous, fanciful views, and finally despairing of success, I thankfully came upon this proposition, which, because it is entirely fresh, has something substantial and real."
  • "After all, I am not so adamantly committed to my own viewpoint that I will reject any proposition made by intelligent persons that are as innocent, cheap, simple, and effective."
Interesting facts

It was Jonathan Swift who invented the feminine name, Vanessa. He got the name from a pet owned by his lover Esther.
The essay “The Benefit of Farting Explain’d’ published in 1772 was likely written by Jonathan Swift.

Why should this topic be used?

A Modest Proposal is used to suggest a problem from a local point of view. In his time, Ireland was experiencing devastating poverty which the government seemed to do nothing about.

Arguments for

The situation experienced in Ireland in the 18th century is witnessed by many governments around the world. a hard-edged way to reason out about the economic situation and willingness are enough to turn such a challenge into its own solution.
It is sad to see how a government elected by the people turns against them the rich who are benefiting from the government get more favors at the expense of the poor.

Arguments against

The writers encourage the government to continue with its atrocities by asking them to butcher the children and use their skin to make gloves and summer boots.
He encourages the government further by telling them that the poverty situation is already out of control. He tells the government those children are already dying and that it is okay to kill them and use them.

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