Free e-Lesson A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift (Download)
Outraged at the treatment of the Irish in his day, Jonathan Swift wrote a satire called A Modest Proposal which parodies 18th century political tracts. In this piece, Swift suggests that the Irish should sell their children as food to help end poverty and overpopulation. This ludicrous short work brought the 18th century public’s attention to the injustices that the Irish suffered at the hands of the British.
This free lesson looks at this 18th century work through the lens of modern society, the impact of abortion, and the shock surrounding the recent Planned Parenthood scandal. By reading this satirical work, students gain an understanding of not only the literary devices at play, but also the deeper meaning and application of such a work in our world today. At the end of the lesson students are invited to write their own satire on a current issue facing society while using the techniques and ideas from A Modest Proposal. This free download includes a teacher’s guide with background information, presentation notes, thought-provoking discussion questions, and educational activities to engage students in reading the literature and in understanding the issues in society today.
Because of its level of difficulty, we recommend that parents and teachers use this lesson with high school or junior high school students. We hope that this lesson will inspire you to use literature to teach the culture of life to your students. This lesson would work well in a British Literature class, a World Literature class, or as part of an economics class discussion.
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