A Modest Proposal

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The Pretender Character Analysis

The Pretender, mentioned twice, is James Francis Edward Stuart, the son of the recently deposed King James II. (King James II was replaced as the leader of England by William III and Mary II in what was known as the Glorious Revolution of 1688.) James Francis Edward Stuart, a Roman Catholic with the support of the Pope, claimed to be the true heir of the British throne, though that claim was denied by the Protestant English (hence the nickname they called him by: The Pretender). Because he was Catholic, he was favored by the Catholic population of Ireland, and became a figure of hope and revolution for them, and much hated by the English.

The Pretender Quotes in A Modest Proposal

The A Modest Proposal quotes below are all either spoken by The Pretender or refer to The Pretender. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Satire and Sincerity Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications, Inc. edition of A Modest Proposal published in 1996.
A Modest Proposal Quotes

For first, as I have already observed, it would greatly lessen the number of papists, with whom we are yearly over-run, being the principal breeders of the nation as well as our most dangerous enemies; and who stay at home on purpose to deliver the kingdom to the pretender, hoping to take their advantage by the absence of so many good protestants, who have chosen rather to leave their country than stay at home and pay tithes against their conscience to an episcopal curate.

Related Characters: The Proposer (speaker), The Pretender
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

Of all the “benefits” of the Proposer’s plan, this is the first that he lists. The Proposer’s use of the word “we” is telling. Though he means “we” to stand in for the entire nation, he clearly doesn’t mean for it to represent the papists (Catholics). This is certainly strange, because Catholics make up the majority of the Irish population. It would appear that in the Proposer’s mind, the wealthy Protestant minority—many of whom don’t even live in Ireland full-time—are the true citizens of Ireland, while Catholics are enemies of the country. The backwardness of this worldview is only compounded when the Proposer humorously suggests that the Catholics who remain at home are clearly treasonous (staying in their own country to try and deliver it to “the pretender,” James Francis Edward Stuart, a Catholic with claims to the throne), while the Protestants who evade taxes by going abroad are merely acting on their conscience.


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The Pretender Character Timeline in A Modest Proposal

The timeline below shows where the character The Pretender appears in A Modest Proposal. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
A Modest Proposal
Satire and Sincerity Theme Icon
Colonialism, Greed, and Inhumanity Theme Icon
Society, Rationality, and Irrationality Theme Icon
Misanthropy (Hatred of Humankind) Theme Icon
...prolific breeders, insist on remaining at home in Ireland, hoping to deliver the nation to the Pretender . They take advantage of the absence of good Protestants, many of whom have left... (full context)