Jonathan Swift, on the other hand, writes in a discursive style, which allows him to project his own outlook. This allows for a much more attacking and ruthless approach in writing. This style is known as the Juvenalian style, again named after a Roman satirist, which focuses much more on the evils and corruption of human society with an increased sense of pessimism and contempt. Swift’s essay discusses extreme methods for solving Ireland’s problems. We can see from the opening sentence that much of his argument is based on sarcasm:
It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads, and cabin doors, crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four or six children, all in rags and importuning every passenger for an alms. Swift’s piece mocks the approach and style of political pamphlets, which were commonplace at the time. The shocking irony and sheer absurdness of his solution to sell and eat babies perhaps suggests his personal negativity at the failure of such a medium to achieve anything.
His proposal is to fatten up the children mentioned in the opening of the piece and feed them to Ireland’s rich land owners. He argues that this could help solve overpopulation and unemployment, sparing families the expense of child-bearing while providing them with a little extra income, reducing the number of abortions, and improving the overall economic well-being of the nation. He also predicts that selling and eating children will have positive effects on family values, with husbands treating their wives with more respect:
Men would become as fond of their wives during the time of their pregnancy as they are now of their mares in foal, their cows in calf, or sows when they are ready to farrow; nor offer to beat or kick them (as is too frequent a practice) for fear of miscarriage. He concludes that the carrying out of this solution will do more to solve Ireland’s problems than any other measure that has been proposed. The shocking nature of Swift’s proposal is the essence of Swift’s satire. By alarming his readers, Swift catches them off guard in order to project his own views, forcing them to view the situation from his perspective.
In doing this, he launches a harsh attack on the inefficacy of Irish political leadership, and it also attacks the ideas of many contemporary reformers. While Swift himself was a shrewd economic theorist, he often expressed contempt for the application of supposedly scientific management ideas to aid humanitarian concerns. The Juvenalian style suits this form of criticism perfectly, as it is likely that Swift would have wanted his piece to inspire reform, which would require the exposure of the Irish government’s weaknesses, largely through a suggestion of an absurd idea.
Such a bizarre solution is seemingly mocking of genuine solutions proposed by the government, and by highlighting this, Swift is ridiculing the manner in which the government approaches these problems. In conclusion, The Rape of the Lock and A Modest Proposal are prime examples of the two main types of satire. Pope’s piece exhibits the good-humoured Horatian style, through which he can make his point without alienating or offending anyone. Swift’s piece, on the other hand, highlights the shocking and harsh value of a savage attack. Both pieces are effective in their own ways, largely due to the fact that they had distinctly different goals.
For example, the Juvenalian style would not have effectively settled the dispute Pope was attempting to resolve in his poem, as it would have only served to cause offence and probably made the situation worse. Similarly, the Horatian style would no have been suitable in an assault on the government’s ethics, as something on such a large scale would have to stand out, which a mere teasing would not achieve. The style of satire is significantly dependant on the target audience and what the writer/poet is setting out to achieve, as the very nature of satire is extremely liable to cause damage through its ridiculing and mocking features.