A nine-page, fill-in-the-blank activity in which your students will analyze paragraph-by-paragraph Swift’s ironic masterpiece. The handout begins with the historical background which prompted the essay, a time in Ireland when the rich were getting richer and the poor were becoming so poor that most were reduced to beggary, ironically called their “lawful occupation”—an economic situation not unlike (some may find) modern-day America.
Much of the handout is devoted to the structure of “A Most Proposal,” which follows the format of a persuasive or argumentative essay: Problem, Proposed Solution, Supporting Arguments, Dismissal of Counterarguments, and Conclusion with a Final-Appeal Call to Action.
Thus the handout should help your students when they do their argumentative assignment.
Since irony is the crucial stylistic aspect of “Modest,” many specific exercises are included which will encourage students on their own to discover Swift’s brilliant use of irony and its accompanying technique, foreshadowing.
An Answer Key is provided, beginning on a separate page. Also appended are detailed notes on difficult vocabulary and 18th-century sentence constructions as well as historical, literary, and social annotations, none of which are found in the student handout. You can select which of these items, if any, to incorporate into your classroom.
The student handout is suitable for a homework assignment or as an in-class activity.
Prepared by Professor William Tarvin, Ph.D., who has published many articles on literature in scholarly journals.