Hoax Close Reading- “A Modest Proposal”

Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like expedients, ’till he hath at least some glympse of hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice.

  • Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”

This sentence is essentially asking that no one state that his ideas are barbaric until they’ve tried them, which seems completely unreasonable; after all he’s suggesting that the poor sell their children as food! The use of the word “therefore” presents this sentence as a conclusion that can be logically reached based on the paragraph before it. Swift follows this up with “I repeat” which creates a sense of importance and makes the reader pay attention to the rest of the sentence.  His use of “expedients” in stead of something like “ideas” acknowledges that many people may see these propositions as immoral, but also attempts to drive home that idea that his ideas are still practical. The sentence continues with words like “hearty” and “sincere” that describe the attempt that one must complete before they can challenge the idea. Swift argues that people must actually attempt to use his idea of selling children for food before they can accurately judge if it is a good idea or not. Furthermore, they must do it sincerely. This is a direct argument against people who just want to decide if an idea is good or not without actually trying it. This sentence has an almost accusatory tone towards those who don’t want to put his idea into practice. This sentence makes an effective argument, but is nearly impossible to take seriously, although some thought that Swift’s truly believed that people should use his ideas because of bold sentences like this one.

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2 Responses to Hoax Close Reading- “A Modest Proposal”

  1. Jack Hester says:

    The use of “I” repeat creates a personal connection with the reader at the beginning where the focus is on the writer himself. Then the focus is put on the readers, who are addressed as men (“no man”). The rest of the sentence describes what actions the reader must take before raising criticisms. Swift uses verbs like “hath” and “attempt” that are modified by words like “hearty” or “sincere” or “at least some” which add to the strength of his sentence and its logical and emotional appeal.

  2. Lindsey Grubbs says:

    Really nice work here, Jack! Seems like you’ve got the hang of it.

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