A Modest Proposal

The Proposer Character Analysis

The unnamed speaker in A Modest Proposal is not Jonathan Swift himself, though at first he may appear to be. Rather, he is an exaggerated persona meant to represent a class of people whom Swift especially disdained. The Proposer appears to be a wealthy, highly educated, Protestant Englishman with little regard for the humanity of Ireland’s Catholic poor. He is a fastidious but entirely deluded planner, whose grand designs for the improvement of Irish society fail to take into account the most basic assumptions of human decency and morality.

The Proposer Quotes in A Modest Proposal

The A Modest Proposal quotes below are all either spoken by The Proposer or refer to The Proposer. 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

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.

Related Characters: The Proposer (speaker)
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of our projectors, I have always found them grossly mistaken in their computation.

Related Characters: The Proposer (speaker)
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

The number of souls in this kingdom being usually reckoned one million and a half, of these I calculate there may be about 200,000 couple whose wives are breeders; from which number I subtract 30,000 couple who are able to maintain their own children, (although I apprehend there cannot be so many, under the present distresses of the kingdom;) but this being granted, there will remain 170,000 breeders. I again subtract 50,000 for those women who miscarry or whose children die by accident or disease within the year. There only remain 120,000 children of poor parents annually born.

Related Characters: The Proposer (speaker)
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

I am assured by our merchants, that a boy or a girl before twelve years old is no saleable commodity; and even when they come to this age they will not yield above 3l. or 3l. 2s. 6d. at most on the exchange; which cannot turn to account either to the parents or kingdom, the charge of nutriment and rags having been at least four times that value.

Related Characters: The Proposer (speaker)
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.
I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or broiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or ragout.

Related Characters: The Proposer (speaker), The American
Related Symbols: Eating
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

I grant that this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.

Related Characters: The Proposer (speaker)
Related Symbols: Eating
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: of taxing our absentees at 5s. a pound: of using neither clothes nor household furniture except what is of our own growth and manufacture: of utterly rejecting the materials and instruments that promote foreign luxury: of curing the expensiveness of pride, vanity, idleness, and gaming in our women: of introducing a vein of parsimony, prudence, and temperance: of learning to love our country, in the want of which we differ even from Laplanders and the inhabitants of Topinamboo: of quitting our animosities and factions, nor acting any longer like the Jews, who were murdering one another at the very moment their city was taken: of being a little cautious not to sell our country and conscience for nothing: of teaching landlords to have at least one degree of mercy toward their tenants: lastly, of putting a spirit of honesty, industry, and skill into our shopkeepers…

Related Characters: The Proposer (speaker)
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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The Proposer Character Timeline in A Modest Proposal

The timeline below shows where the character The Proposer 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
In his opening remarks , the Proposer outlines one of the biggest problems facing the Irish commonwealth: women beggars are everywhere in... (full context)
Satire and Sincerity Theme Icon
Colonialism, Greed, and Inhumanity Theme Icon
Society, Rationality, and Irrationality Theme Icon
The Proposer claims to have devoted years of careful thought to this problem. He has weighed the... (full context)
Satire and Sincerity Theme Icon
Colonialism, Greed, and Inhumanity Theme Icon
Society, Rationality, and Irrationality Theme Icon
These children can’t be trained in crafts or farming , the Proposer claims, because the Irish neither build houses nor cultivate land. The children can’t support themselves... (full context)
Satire and Sincerity Theme Icon
Colonialism, Greed, and Inhumanity Theme Icon
Society, Rationality, and Irrationality Theme Icon
At long last , the Proposer finally unveils his own plan. He has heard from an American friend that the flesh... (full context)
Satire and Sincerity Theme Icon
Colonialism, Greed, and Inhumanity Theme Icon
Misanthropy (Hatred of Humankind) Theme Icon
The Proposer then explains that a Very Worthy Person has offered an amendment to this plan: in... (full context)
Colonialism, Greed, and Inhumanity Theme Icon
Society, Rationality, and Irrationality Theme Icon
Misanthropy (Hatred of Humankind) Theme Icon
The Proposer wants to give his friend a little credit, however. This Very Worthy Person got his... (full context)
Colonialism, Greed, and Inhumanity Theme Icon
Society, Rationality, and Irrationality Theme Icon
Misanthropy (Hatred of Humankind) Theme Icon
The Proposer acknowledges that while his plan will take care of all the impoverished children, it fails... (full context)
Satire and Sincerity Theme Icon
Colonialism, Greed, and Inhumanity Theme Icon
Society, Rationality, and Irrationality Theme Icon
Misanthropy (Hatred of Humankind) Theme Icon
Now the Proposer begins to list in detail the many advantages of his plan. Firstly, the plan will... (full context)
Colonialism, Greed, and Inhumanity Theme Icon
As a second advantage of the Proposer ’s plan, poor Irish tenants will finally have something with which to pay off their... (full context)
Colonialism, Greed, and Inhumanity Theme Icon
Society, Rationality, and Irrationality Theme Icon
As a third advantage of the Proposer ’s plan, the profits made off the sale of children will total 10,000 pounds per... (full context)
Colonialism, Greed, and Inhumanity Theme Icon
Misanthropy (Hatred of Humankind) Theme Icon
As a fourth advantage of the Proposer ’s plan, those “constant breeders” who have a new child every year will be relieved... (full context)
Colonialism, Greed, and Inhumanity Theme Icon
As a fifth advantage of the Proposer ’s plan, the practice of eating children will “bring great custom” to all the local... (full context)
Satire and Sincerity Theme Icon
Colonialism, Greed, and Inhumanity Theme Icon
Misanthropy (Hatred of Humankind) Theme Icon
As a sixth advantage of the Proposer ’s plan, the Irish people will feel encouraged to marry—so they can make some money... (full context)
Satire and Sincerity Theme Icon
Colonialism, Greed, and Inhumanity Theme Icon
Society, Rationality, and Irrationality Theme Icon
Misanthropy (Hatred of Humankind) Theme Icon
The Proposer can’t think of a single worthwhile objection to his plan. Some people might point out... (full context)
Satire and Sincerity Theme Icon
Colonialism, Greed, and Inhumanity Theme Icon
Society, Rationality, and Irrationality Theme Icon
Misanthropy (Hatred of Humankind) Theme Icon
To those who would be so bold as to attempt a rebuttal to his plan , the Proposer makes only one request: that they ask the impoverished parents of Ireland if they would... (full context)
Satire and Sincerity Theme Icon
Colonialism, Greed, and Inhumanity Theme Icon
Society, Rationality, and Irrationality Theme Icon
Finally , the Proposer notes that he can’t help but speak sincerely about his plan, because he stands nothing... (full context)