Tag Archives: Jonathan Swift

Book 20: A Modest Proposal

I first read Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal in 7th grade with a teacher who went through it paragraph by paragraph with us, delighting in each bit of satire he could pull out and explain for us. I reread it for the 1001 Books Challenge getting it from the web


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 (1729) anonymously. In this essay, Swift mocks the British officials and upper class by appearing to suggest that the poor Irish might solve their economic problems by selling their children as food. This would solve several problems, he notes, such as the poverty of the Irish and doing away with the beggars in the street which so offended the upper class. This satire is a full-length argument suggesting possible recipes / preparations for the children and the economical calculations / benefits to doing this with the goal to “find out a fair, cheap, and easy Method” for converting the starving children of Ireland into “sound and useful members of the Commonwealth.”

A pretty cool study guide for the essay can be found here. Happy Reading!


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Book 19: Gulliver’s Travels

Book 19 of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die is Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. I have read the book 4 times (1 in high school / 2 in college as an undergrad / 1 recently reread for this challenge). It is available for free online in a variety of places, including Project Gutenberg and GoogleBooks. Because so many people have written so much about this book, I am not even going to try. Instead, I am going to offer a different sort of blog today. Here are some interesting sites (in no particular order) on Gulliver’s Travels.

Cummings Study Guide: There are many study guides available for GT on the internet from Cliff Notes to Spark Notes to eNotes. But, this one is complete and free. This site works well for the beginning reader.

Answers.com: Similar to the study guide above, this site has all you need to know for an introduction to GT, including a nice overview, an author biography, critical essays, a good bibliography, and suggestions for further reading.

Review of Gulliver’s Travels: This site from associated content has an overview of the book but at the bottom of the page, it has links to articles about specific things in the book, such as sexual frustration, satire, comparison to A Modest Proposal, etc. These articles are very interesting.

Swift’s Moral Satire: This site is an essay devoted to an overview of the satire in the book. It explains a lot. It also has a great bibliography.

Paper Starter: This site has a list of possible thesis statements for essays about GT, as well as a list of more important quotes from the book that should be used in good students essays.

Lesson Plan Library: For those familiar with the book and or those planning to teach it, the Discovery Channel’s lesson plan library has many resources about Gulliver’s Travels, including discussion questions and activities for using GT across the curriculum. However, not all links for this site are current.

While looking at these sites, I also learned that a new Gulliver’s Travels movie is expected out this year with Jack Black and Amanda Peet. The movie is scheduled to be released in December and is listed as an adventure / comedy. It is apparently also in 3D.

Happy Reading (and Watching)–

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Book 14: A Tale of a Tub by Jonathan Swift

This is the first of the books  from the “1700s” section in the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I had not read it before, but I found it at Project Gutenberg.

Jonathan Swift’s first major work was A Tale of a Tub, composed before 1697 and published in 1704. It is a satire (go figure) and tells the story of three brothers (who represent different branches of Christianity) and is divided by “digressions.” These digressions parody enthusiasm, pride, and credulity. It was popular and is considered Swift’s best allegory.

The tale is so dense that a simple overview is really not effective. One should read this with a companion manual, I think. For instance, to understand the parody, I needed to know that the “tub” was a pulpit, and the three brothers are stand ins: Peter was the Roman Catholic Church, Jack the Protestants, and Martin the Church of England. These brothers have each inherited coats (religious sects) from their father (god, of course), and they have his will (the Bible) to tell them what do to, specifically that they must not alter or change their coats in any way. So, like naughty children, they immediately disobey and make change after change. The allegory is supposed to be an apology for the Anglican refusal to align with the other sects in any way.

 1001 Books includes this Tale because of the power of its satire (which satirized satire itself): “The force of A Tale of a Tub is attributable to this almost autonomous ironic energy, capable of undermining anything with a power that even Swift’s subsequent and more famous masterpieces rarely equalled” (40).

As I have probably made clear in earlier post, fan of christian allegory I am not (thank you Yoda). Nonetheless, it is on this list so I tackled it for the challenge. I am happy to leave it at that, to move onto my next “fun” read, another cozy mystery, of course, and to wish you Happy Reading!

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