Sep 17

A modest proposal by J. Swift

Posted: under Alice in Wonderland.

What is Swift’s attitude toward the beggars he describes in the opening paragraph?

The irony of this passage, and in Swift’s treatment of the poor in general, is neither simple nor straightforward. His compassion for these people is mitigated by a strong sense that people ought to take the initiative to help themselves out of their own difficulties. Swift’s language here plays on the popular judgment of beggars as lazy opportunists. While Swift does not entirely dissociate himself from this opinion, his purpose here is to show the complex web of social and economic realities that supports and perpetuates such a situation.

Where do the speaker’s allegiances lie in this essay? With what social groups does he identify himself?

The speaker is a Protestant and a member of the Irish upper class. While he professes sympathy for the plight of the poor Catholic population, he also holds a fairly contemptuous opinion of them. He takes great pains to enumerate the advantages of his proposed project for the wealthy, who would presumably be called upon to implement it. Yet Swift’s irony implicates this moneyed class for their monetary greed, their personal indulgence, their unflagging attention to their own self-interest, and their indifference to the state of the poor and the state of the nation as a whole.

What sort of persona does Swift create for the “author” of A Modest Proposal?

The “proposer” is notable for his vanity, his cold-heartedness, and the ruthlessness of his logic. He represents the hypocrisy and superficiality of many would-be reformers, whose seeming benevolence masks such impediments as prejudice, intolerance, sentimentalism, and hyper-abstraction. His reductive handling of suffering humans as statistical entities and economic commodities is what makes him most unappealing, in spite of the calm and reasonable tone of his argumentation.

Where do you detect differences between the “proposer” and Swift himself?

If Swift does not actually think the Irish people should eat their children, what does he think they should do?

Who is the audience of this work?

Who will be the beneficiaries of this “Modest Proposal”?

When did it first become apparent to you that Swift’s proposal was not serious? How did you respond?

What relevance does A Modest Proposal have for contemporary social and political issues? Can you think of historical situations that pose similar problems about ends and means?

Write a persuasive essay of your own that uses some of Swift’s rhetorical strategies (adopt a persona, for example, or profess opinions that you do not hold as a way of strengthening your real arguments.)

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Nov 08

listening to Alice in Wonderland

Posted: under Alice in Wonderland.

visit this website


all chapters are read in a very pleasant and comprehensible way

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Nov 08

Down the rabbit hole

Posted: under Alice in Wonderland.

1. There was nothing so very remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so very much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself, `Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!’ (when she thought it over afterwards, it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but when the Rabbit actually took a watch out of its waistcoat- pocket, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge.
What does this tell us about Alice’s character? Also, notice how long and complicated this sentence is.

2. In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again. What does this tell us about Alice’s character?

3. (Alice had no idea what Latitude was, or Longitude either, but thought they were nice grand words to say .) This seems to be a typical result of Alice’s learning.

4. (and she tried to curtsey as she spoke– fancy curtseying as you’re falling through the air! Do you think you could manage it?) What does this tell us about Alice’s upbringing? Note, the 2nd person.

5. `Dinah’ll miss me very much to-night, I should think!’ (Dinah was the cat .) `I hope they’ll remember her saucer of milk at tea-time.’ What does this tell us about Alice?

6. `What a curious feeling!’ said Alice; `I must be shutting up like a telescope .’ Be careful of what you wish for.

7. Soon her eye fell on a little glass box that was lying under the table: she opened it, and found in it a very small cake, on which the words `EAT ME’ were beautifully marked in currants. `Well, I’ll eat it,’ said Alice, `and if it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key; and if it makes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door; so either way I’ll get into the garden, and I don’t care which happens!’
What does this tell us about Alice’s intelligence?

Remember: the white rabbit, falling, the key; the garden, her literal mind `But it’s no use now,’ thought poor Alice, `to pretend to be two people! Why, there’s hardly enough of me left to make ONE respectable person!’

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