A Modest Proposal Comprehension Questions

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha has Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology, as well as a Bachelor's in Marketing. She has extensive experience creating & teaching curricula in college level education, history, English, business and marketing.

'A Modest Proposal' by Johnathan Swift is a satirical essay that describes a plan to help the poor in Ireland by selling their children to feed the rich. This lesson focuses on questions to help students understand this interesting proposition.

A Modest Proposal

Swift's A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick is a satirical essay that shows the immense lack of common sense that was being shown during the ''Age of Reason''.

The essay was written during the 1700s, a time when Ireland was struggling with overpopulation. To make matters worse, a large part of that population was poor and they struggled to feed their children. Due to this issue, the government charged a number of men to come up with solutions to the issues the people were facing, but they were all based in logic and came across as callous and cruel.

Swift takes this to the extreme with A Modest Proposal. He proposes that children should be raised to become delicacies for the rich. He essentially proposes cannibalism of the Irish children. This would help with overpopulation and boost the economy as well. Although the story is satire, it brings into focus the callousness of other proposals presented in 18th-century Ireland.

Comprehension Questions on Writing Style

To help students deepen their understanding of A Modest Proposal, insightful comprehension questions can be used. The following questions are designed to help you gauge students' understanding of the writing style and emotions contained within it.

  • What are your thoughts on Swift's proposal?
  • What is satire?
  • How does Swift use it in this story?
  • What themes do you see in this story?
  • What message is Swift trying to convey in A Modest Proposal?
  • Does Swift uses symbolism?
  • Does Swift use allusions?
  • Do you think Swift's message is conveyed? Or do you think the subject matter makes the message get lost?

General Comprehension Question

The following questions are based on the essay and the proposal itself.

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