A Modest Proposal Summary – Chapter 1
It doesn’t take long to summarize the short “pamphlet” that is Swift’s Modest Proposal. To remedy the problem of the poverty-stricken, oppressed and uneducated population of Catholics in Ireland, Swift’s projector calmly and rationally proposes that thousands of the children should be killed and eaten. This will help both the overpopulated poor, who can’t afford to care for their children anyway, and the rich, who will get a good meal out of the whole process. Even in his introduction he explains the reason for his proposal: “for Preventing the Children of poor People in Ireland, from being a Burden to their Parents or Country; and for making them beneficial to the Publick.”
What follows is a very artful attempt to justify such a seemingly outrageous scheme. Yet throughout the discourse, the projector never loses his cool, but proceeds to logically lay out the groundwork for such a proposal.
The following reasons he uses to advance his plan are summarized below. First, eating the poor children will solve the problem of population among the papists, or the Catholics. Second, it will make the remaining papists richer, since they will have such valuable commodities to sell in exchange for rent credit, etc. Third, it will help the economy since less money will have to be spent on the upbringing of so many poor children. This system, lastly, will produce a better cultural environment for Ireland as a whole, encouraging marriage and the charms of the tavern.
Finally, the projector defends his intentions in offering such a proposal, explaining that he has no personal advantages which will be derived from his plan, since his children are all too old to kill and his wife is too old to have more children.