This paper explores the satirical essay ‘A Modest Proposal’ by Jonathan Swift (1729) and the surprises in it that appear through the text and towards the ending. Jonathan Swift in his essay tries to bring forward the plight of misery of the people of Ireland under the English rule. The paper also tries to explain how that period’s key social, cultural and artistic contributions contributed to historical changes. Further in a historical context it runs through the importance of the cultural and artistic expressions of the society at that time. The paper also tries to observe the influences of intellectual, religious, political and socio-economic forces on social, cultural and artistic expressions. Finally it lists some significant changes that the world culture saw from renaissance to contemporary times Pappas. L. M. & Pappas. N. C.J. (n.d.). In all, the paper tries to understand a literary work of the period through the importance and relevance of various factors influencing art, culture and society.
A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift (1729) is a satire that employs verbal irony to depict the miserable and impoverished state of the Irish peasants during the English rule. With a wry and morbid sense of humor, Swift brings to our notice the dire state of Ireland and how a revolutionary change was badly required.
Swift’s essay takes the reader through shocking plans and advises on how to solve the problem of poverty plaguing Ireland; he suggests that the children of the poor peasants be sold and bought as food to feed the rich Phiddan. R. (1996).. The essay continues to shock and stun the readers as Swift gets more detailed and practical about the solution he is suggesting. He goes on to write in a very satirical fashion that children of the poor must be well-fed, their parents given to means to fatten a child only to make the child a useful end to a tasty meal, thus claiming to resolve the problems at hand and also a means to end the problem of over populated poor folk. Surprisingly, even though he starts the essay and continues on a violent and disturbing note, towards the end he becomes pliable and tries to get the readers to see the real problem and the desperate need for a solution. The tone of the essay that had once begun in a shocking manner mellows down to an endearing and sincere tone, which causes the readers to look at the problem for real now that he has their full attention. However, the other part of the essay’s surprise ending is when Swift declares that he does not have children that fit the said age to sell.
Explain how key social, cultural and artistic contributions contribute to historical changes.
Culture prompts people to create art that makes changes the social sphere and hence cause historical changes. In this context, Jonathan Swift uses the form of a pamphlet to circulate this essay among the people, with this he hopes to catch the attention of the general public that might cause a quest for change in the pitiable conditions that they existed in. He strives to bring to the notice of the rich, the plight of the poor peasants and thus bridge the callous gap there was among them. He believes an awareness and then the admission of the problem might bring the solution closer, hence he chooses to shock his readers into comprehending the situation and act on it. Though this did not have quite the impact he desired, it did bring the real issue to the forefront instead of being ignored completely.
Explain the importance of situating a society’s cultural and artistic expressions within a historical context.
During this period in Britain, the society was clearly divided into classes based on how rich or comfortable they were. There were the rich and pampered classes like nobility closely followed by the comfortable clergy. The lowest ones ranked were the poor peasants and destitute kind. This kind of divide in the society brought about a certain lack of empathy by the rich towards the poor. This kind of situation was depicted by many an artist during the time. The work and literature of the time depicted this divide and the helplessness of the lower strata of the society. This essay is an earnest attempt by Jonathan Swift to bring forth the same.
Examine the influences of intellectual, religious, political and socio-economic forces on social, cultural and artistic expressions.
There were also many other influences on the social, cultural and artistic expressions of the time. There were innovations in science, several scientific advancements and artists like Da Vinci were a part of it. New technologies like the printing press were invented. There was improvement in the art of warfare, weapons and artillery and new infantry tactics. There were several reforms in the Church. All these factors were clearly seen in the depictions of the time by some of the greatest inventors and artists of the time.
Identify major historical developments in world cultures from the Renaissance to the contemporary period
One of the major changes that Renaissance brought about was that Art after renaissance was more real, it was based on nature. Instead of the traditional iconography and religious figures the art on nature was refreshingly beautiful. There was an improved knowledge of anatomy that gave way to work with better proportioned subjects. There were technological inventions like the printing press Pappas. L. M. & Pappas. N. C.J. (n.d.). that changed the way the world works in publishing any literature that was earlier circulated after making copies by hand. This innovation revolutionized the whole publishing industry, caused new ideas to spread quickly and lead to educational reform. With Renaissance a new concept of humanism came about that brought about a more balanced approach towards religion. There also came about a great divide between science and religion, causing scientists to rely more on scientific observation and less on religious teachings. Great artists like Da Vinci brought about the fresh thought of combining art and science together giving rise to a new age of design and invention.
Jonathan Swift, in his ‘A Modest Proposal’ employs verbal irony to shock people into noticing the lowly state of despair of the Irish subjects. By making stunning suggestions he works towards making people stop and notice the injustice meted out by the English rule on their Irish subjects. He hopes these kinds of presentation serves as an eye-opener to one and all; and does try to bring about a radical change in the state of affairs.
Swift. J. (2007). A Modest Proposal. EBooks by Project Gutenberg. . Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1080/1080-h/1080-h.htm
Phiddan. R. (1996). Have You Eaten Yet? The Reader in A Modest Proposal. Studies in English Literature. Restoration and Eighteenth Century. Vol 36. No. 3. pp. 603-621. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/450801
Pappas. L. M. & Pappas. N. C.J. (n.d.). Lecture Notes. History 266: World History from the Renaissance to Imperialism. Retrieved from http://www.shsu.edu/~his_ncp/266LecN.html