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    Cannibalism the Last Taboo Essay

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    The faith in their religion is instrumental in their day-to-day survival in the most adverse of circumstances. This faith is also a cause of great strength when coping with the loss of friends as the story progresses. In the second half of the book, the courage and leadership qualities of Nando become apparent. His motivational powers using both logical and religious argument become apparent as he drives his companions forward towards their ultimate rescue.

    The joint management skills of Nando and Canessa organise the survivors into a routine, albeit not to demanding, which takes their minds off the grim situation they are in. Read shows clever writing skills also when establishing the characters of the other survivors. The overall picture of cannibalism established thoughtfully during the novel by Read is its acceptance in extreme circumstances to ensure survival. This parallels the overall picture in nature described in the opening paragraph. His religious justification is also skilfully managed.

    A MODEST PROPOSAL Jonathon Swift’s interpretation of cannibalism is different but again carefully established in his well-researched satirical essay. The full title of his piece, A MODEST PRPOSAL for preventing the children of the poor people in Ireland from being a burden to their parents and country, and for making them beneficial to the public, hardly prepares the reader for the way Swift proposes to deal with the situation. The serious title belies the dark humour the Swift uses to develop his ideas.

    His initial assessment of the situation in his adopted country is damning citing beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children on every corner. There is lack of opportunity for all and Swift suggests that the only future for the children is as thieves, mercenaries or slaves. He then proposes a fair, cheap and easy method to rectify the situation having considered several other schemes that had also been proposed. Swift’s proposal at its simplest involved the culling of a percentage of Irish children at the age of one and selling the carcasses to the wealthy as food.

    Children under one, he argued were little burden to mother or state as they were cheap to maintain whilst still breast-fed and did not hinder mother from begging. His formula for the numbers to be culled was as follows: Irish population…………………………………………… 1,500,000 Breeding couples……………………………………………. 200,000 LESS breeding couples who can afford children…………… 30. 000 ——— 170,000 LESS couples who lose children by miscarriage or disease…

    50,000 ———- Actual breeding couples……………………………………. 120,000 Swift realises that to perpetuate his scheme will require a certain number of children to become future breeders and suggests that the number required is twenty thousand in the proportion of one male to four females. The ratio four to one is justified by comparison to agricultural practice with sheep, black- cattle or swine. Hence he suggests that the 100,000 children culled will generate (at 10 shillings per carcass) i??

    50,000 pounds that will go directly via the parents into the Irish economy Swift enhances his proposal with several statements, which illustrate the satirical nature of the piece. He likens the Irish people to a commercial herd of animals referring to fertile female as breeders. He further advances the theory by suggesting that the optimum age for culling is one as he was assured by an American acquaintance that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old, a most delicious, nourishing and wholesome food whether stewed, roasted, baked or boiled.

    With heavy sarcasm, Swift suggests his scheme will prevent those voluntary abortions and that horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children. A more unusual benefit quoted is that it would be a great inducement to marriage and 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 their sows when they are ready to farrow. There are several references to Roman Catholics in this piece starting with his reference to people leaving Ireland to fight for the Pretenders in Spain.

    He postulates that this scheme will drastically reduce the number of Roman Catholics who might be at odds with their English Protestant masters citing them as the principal breeders of the nation and the number of Popish infants is at least three to one in this country. This logical train of thought dealing with both financial and social aspects of Swift’s outrageous cannibalistic scheme and adds credibility to his suggestions. Swift makes several references to American friends, which would seem to indicate that they were not averse to cannibal practice.

    The actual underlying message that Swift conveys in his pamphlet is the absolute futile situation that the Irish found themselves with their English masters and is largely summed up in just one paragraph. The population was largely unemployed, child labour was abused and the general standard of health was very low. He states: Some people of a desponding spirit are in great concern about that vast number of poor people, who are aged, diseased or maimed and goes on it is well known that they are every day dying, and rotting, by cold, and famine, and filth, and vermin.

    He further states that the young are so weak with hunger that they are incapable of working. He concludes that no one is in the situation to turn things around and quickly returns to his original theme: I have too long digressed, and therefore shall return to my subject. In a subsequent paragraph, Swift intimates some of the possible solutions to the Irish problem but discounts them as incomplete solutions returning again to his theory, which he claims can incur no danger in disobliging England. My initial response to Alive was that it a well-written novel with interesting subject matter.

    Piers Paul Read develops his characters skilfully and the problems that they face are addressed with great thought. He succeeds in justifying the survivors’ acts of cannibalism in spite of initial misgivings and the problems with their Catholic faith. A Modest Proposal was, on first reading, superficial but closer examination revealed Swift’s hidden agenda. His theme of cannibalism covers up attacks on the system that is destroying the country he loves. The theme of cannibalism serves both authors well and their individual approaches to a difficult problem are very interesting.

    Both author’s work can be justified by the zoological definition in the first paragraph but their major task has been justifying this in light of their faith. Having read both pieces in question, I was initially drawn to Piers Paul Reads beautifully written novel but having gained a greater understanding of the historical background to Swift’s work, I think I prefer the clever way in which he uses black humour to make his important underlying statement. Leigh Moore English 01/05/2007 Wider Reading Coursework.

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