Studies show that most people were desperately poor and many were suffering from starvation and disease during the time Johnathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” was written. Suffering is defined as the state of undergoing pain, distress or hardship which many underwent throughout this time (www.dictionary.com). Women were treated like breeders, the rich stole from the poor, and great hunger lead to starvation on the streets. These three factors all contributed to intense suffering for the poverty stricken Irish during 1729.
An important sub-point to the theme of suffering is the way women were treated. Women were used as breeders throughout the story, these women often had numerous children that they fattened up to later be sold to rich English land owners. By having these babies’ women were seen as producers for a new food source, children, and these women were helping to solve starvation. In the passage, Swift says “These women instead of being able to work for an honest livelihood, are forced to beg sustenance for their helpless infants” (Page. 502). This quote goes to show how inhumane the women were treated by having to give up their innocent newborns to provide a means of income. It also shows how selfish the English people were for forcing women to endure these conditions often for their benefit.
Secondly, in “A Modest Proposal,” the rich often stole from the poor. This is shown in correlation with the fact that Irish poor are sold to the wealthy English for their own delight. In the following quotation, “A child will make two dishes for entertainment for friends, and with a little salt or pepper will be very good boiled especially in winter” (Page 504). This shows that the English took pride in feasting on a woman’s innocent child that they took. It also suggests they had no remorse. The rich also took advantage of the poor by taking their land. In the quote “and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they already devoured” (Page. 504). The wealthy landlords knew they have an advantage over the poor tenants and continued to move in and take over Irish land contributing to their suffering.
Furthermore, aside from the way women were treated and the rich stealing from the poor, the Irish had no food. Starvation was a reoccurring problem throughout “A Modest Proposal,” as many were too deprived to afford nutrition. In the passage it goes to say, “and help to pay their landlords rent, their corn and cattle being already seized, and money a thing unknown” (Page.506). The rich English landlords were continuing to take away the Irish’s means of living. The poor’s money was stripped from them alongside their cattle and crops leaving them helpless. Desperation kicked in for many and most families had no option but to give up their infants to the undeserving English. Swift states “born of parents in effect as little able to support them, as those who demand our charity in the streets” (Page 503). The Irish were begging help from the English on the streets as though the rich landlords did not care. The wealthy were there to profit from the distressed by taking young children to later be a feast of celebration, a celebration that causes suffering to great extent.
In conclusion, women were treated like breeders, the rich stole from the poor, and great hunger lead to starvation on the streets. These problems all contributed to immense suffering and pain throughout the story “A Modest Proposal.”