Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" can be used to prove the quote of Jules Feiffer stating that "satire is creating a logical argument which, followed to its end, is absurd." The full title to Swift's essay is "A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to their Parents or Country, and for Making them Beneficial to the Public." This story takes place during a period of British oppression, when the Irish were seeking relief from poverty. His proposal is to fatten up 100, 000 of the 120, 000 undernourished children and to sell them to Ireland's rich land-owners at a year old. Doing this would battle overpopulation and unemployment, sparing families the expense of feeding and clothing a child while providing them with money from sale of their children, contributing to the overall economic welfare of the nation. In "A Modest Proposal," the main objective was to draw attention to the plight of the Irish people and motivate readers to find a workable solution. Swift shows the readers his proposal mainly through satire, or humorous sarcasm and irony. Swift's sarcasm is shown right from the first paragraph, fooling his readers by mentioning that it is a melancholy sight to see beggars and their children on the street.
Upon first reading this, one may be led to believe that Swift is a compassionate writer attempting to feel the pain of the beggars. But as the story continues, one can look back and note that he is using a sarcastic tone and the only sad sight that he sees is the fact that people of his status have to deal with commoners. Swift's irony serves as a constant metaphor for the horror being experienced by the people of Ireland. His awful proposal is a result of the terrible suffering of the speaker's own fellow citizens. Swift accuses the English Protestants for their cruel and inhumane treatment of the poor Catholics through both political and economic oppression. This is seen most clearly when he ponders that England would be more than willing to eat the Irish even without such a proposal, saying that ."..
I could name a country which would be glad to eat up our whole nation without it." Swift uses his satire as a symbol for the mayhem already known in his country. Why would he propose such an atrocious plan that involves both the sacrifice of another human as well as cannibalism and expect to be taken seriously? This story should be viewed as a fictional work and as one of the best demonstrations of dual sarcasm and irony combined. During this time period, the poor commoners that Swift describes could not read, much less afford to buy one of his works. Swift was well aware that his audience was the wealthy upper class. He could write a proposal like this knowing that there would be no repercussions since the upper class would treat this as a comedy. If the lower class had known of the story, they could have revolted fearing that their children were in danger.
In effect, it is a combination of both propaganda and humor aimed for the educated audience. One must conclude that although Swift proposes an argument that would logically benefit the economy of Ireland, as Feiffer said, if it is .".. followed to its end, [it] is absurd.".