Hyperbole in a Modest Proposal

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About this sample


Words: 696 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2024

Words: 696|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2024

In Jonathan Swift's satirical essay "A Modest Proposal," the use of hyperbole serves as a powerful tool to highlight societal issues and provoke thought. With exaggerated statements and absurd proposals, Swift challenges readers to reflect on the harsh realities of poverty and inequality in 18th-century Ireland. This essay will delve into the role of hyperbole in "A Modest Proposal," exploring how Swift uses extreme exaggeration to critique the British government's oppressive policies and the apathy of the wealthy elite towards the impoverished Irish population. By examining specific examples of hyperbolic language and outrageous suggestions put forth by Swift, this analysis will demonstrate how the author effectively employs this rhetorical device to draw attention to the dire circumstances facing the Irish people. Through a careful examination of Swift's use of hyperbole, this essay will ultimately argue that "A Modest Proposal" serves as a scathing critique of social injustice and a call to action for reform.

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In "A Modest Proposal," Swift's use of hyperbole is evident from the very beginning, as he suggests that the impoverished Irish should sell their children as food to the wealthy to alleviate their economic hardships. This shocking proposal is clearly an extreme exaggeration, but it serves a deeper purpose in highlighting the brutal reality of poverty and starvation faced by the Irish population. By presenting such a grotesque and outrageous solution to the problem, Swift forces readers to confront the inhumanity of the British government's policies and the indifference of the upper class towards the suffering of the poor. This hyperbolic approach effectively draws attention to the dire circumstances of the Irish people and challenges the audience to consider the root causes of such social inequality.

Furthermore, Swift's use of hyperbole extends beyond the initial proposal to include absurd calculations and statistics that further emphasize the severity of the situation. For example, Swift calculates the number of infants that can be sold for consumption based on their weight and age, adding a chillingly logical tone to his outrageous suggestion. This meticulous attention to detail in crafting such a disturbingly rational argument underscores the absurdity of the British government's oppressive policies and the callousness of the wealthy elite who benefit from them. By presenting these exaggerated figures and calculations, Swift effectively demonstrates the dehumanizing effects of poverty and inequality, pushing readers to question the moral implications of such societal disparities.

Moreover, Swift's use of hyperbole is not limited to the proposal itself, but extends to his scathing critique of the British government's exploitative practices in Ireland. Throughout the essay, Swift employs exaggerated language and satirical wit to condemn the oppressive policies and economic exploitation that have contributed to the suffering of the Irish people. For instance, Swift sarcastically refers to the Irish as "breeders" and "breeding machines," highlighting the dehumanizing effects of colonial rule and economic exploitation on the Irish population. This hyperbolic language serves to underscore the systemic injustices perpetuated by the British government and the complicity of the wealthy elite in maintaining such inequalities. By using extreme exaggeration and biting satire, Swift effectively exposes the hypocrisy and cruelty of those in power, urging readers to confront the harsh realities of social injustice and advocate for meaningful change.

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In conclusion, Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" effectively utilizes hyperbole to critique societal issues and prompt readers to consider the harsh realities of poverty and inequality. Through exaggerated proposals, calculations, and language, Swift highlights the inhumanity of oppressive policies and the indifference of the wealthy elite towards the suffering of the Irish population. By examining specific examples of hyperbolic language and satirical wit in the essay, it becomes clear that Swift's use of this rhetorical device is a powerful tool for drawing attention to social injustices and advocating for reform. As we reflect on the enduring impact of "A Modest Proposal," it is evident that Swift's critique of social inequality remains relevant today, prompting us to consider the implications of systemic injustice and the need for meaningful change. Moving forward, further research into the role of hyperbole in satire and its effectiveness in critiquing social issues could offer valuable insights into how literature can continue to provoke thought and inspire action in addressing societal injustices.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Hyperbole In A Modest Proposal. (2024, March 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 14, 2024, from
“Hyperbole In A Modest Proposal.” GradesFixer, 13 Mar. 2024,
Hyperbole In A Modest Proposal. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 Jul. 2024].
Hyperbole In A Modest Proposal [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 13 [cited 2024 Jul 14]. Available from:
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