“A Modest Proposal”

“A Modest Proposal”

Jonathan Swift’s essay “A Modest Proposal” argues that the only realistic solution to the problems of hunger, overpopulation, and poverty in 1700s Ireland is for the poor to sell their babies to the rich as a source of food. The most frightening thing about this satirical essay is that his argument makes perfect logical sense – so long as you ignore the obvious moral problem with eating babies. In this assignment, you must write your own argument that, like Swift’s, proposes a viable solution to a current problem in the world that would work if we only forget our morals. Choose a topic for argument and then, using a minimum of THREE SOURCES, prove the efficacy of your solution. Your essay must be 2-4 pages long and include a bibliography.

Purpose: To study rhetorical techniques of argumentation and learn how to draw inspiration from sources without copying or plagiarizing. Jonathan Swift’s argument drew heavily from logos and pathos because the author knew that he could not rely on ethos for such a controversial argument. Similarly, your own work will need to rely on strong research into quantifiable data surrounding the topic you choose to argue about. Swift wrote about poverty, and as such needed extensive knowledge about economics, cultural trends, and population figures. Though his work is satirical, his reasoning is sound and well-supported. To succeed in this essay you will not only need to learn from his methodology and adapt it, but also be able to predict objections or concerns your audience might have as you conduct your own research. As for practical use, think of it like this: If you can write a convincing argument about eating babies, you can pretty much prove anything.

• Though this essay is a work of satire, I do not want you to write it sarcastically! You must act as if you believe this solution would really work and build an argument based on pure logic (logos) that proves why.
• You should cite statistics, psychology, economics, and any other data that can support your evil scheme. If you’re feeling bold you may even research alternative moral systems that would support your idea.
• Your solution must also be scientifically plausible – no zombies, no moon bases, no magic. Be creative! Be evil! Most importantly, be persuasive!
• This essay can be as dark as you feel comfortable getting. If you want to tackle grim issues like genocide that’s fine, but it’s also perfectly acceptable to address less weighty issues like texting while driving (or during class). Just be sure to explain why these are problems worthy of such extreme solutions.
• Feel free to draw on prior research and definitions but make sure to have at least three new sources.

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