A modest Proposal

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Your Own Modest Proposal Five-Paragraph Essay Assignment

Assignment: After reading Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” write your own half-serious satirical solution to a problem in modern American society.

Some specifics: Your final product should be at least five paragraphs long. It should have a structure similar to Swift’s essay, should contain a similarly sarcastic tone, and should implement some (if not all) of the four major satirical techniques: exaggeration, incongruity, parody, and reversal.


  1. Read and analyze Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” Note the structure and tone of the essay, as well as Swift’s use of satirical techniques.

  2. Brainstorm societal problems that you might want to address (i.e. the famine in Ireland, which Swift addresses). Your problem should be something that impacts our nation’s society as a whole, so don’t pick something that only applies to Medford High School or Medford.

  3. Outline and write your essay. You may feel free to add additional paragraphs where appropriate, but your essay should follow the basic model below:

    1. 25-30 word subtitle. Your essay should be called “A Modest Proposal,” but the subtitle should flesh out what societal problem you are trying to solve (without giving away your “shocking” element). (Swift’s full title is “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.” Shoot for something like that.)

    2. Paragraph 1: A clear first paragraph that contains an indelible image of your societal problem. (Swift’s image in his first paragraph is that of the mother with six children dressed in rags begging for alms. Try to include an image of your problem that elicits the readers’ sympathies in a similar way.)

    3. Paragraph 2: A paragraph description of your shocking solution. (This is like the paragraph in which Swift talks “delicious and nourishing” babies.)

    4. Paragraph 3: A list of six clearly labeled “logical reasons” for why your solution would work. (Label your sentences “firstly,” “secondly,” “thirdly,” as Swift does.)

    5. Paragraph 4: An italicized paragraph describing your response to the opposition’s argument. (Note Swift’s italicized paragraphs for guidance on this.)

    6. Paragraph 5: Conclusion.

  4. Write a brief (one-paragraph) meta-cognitive reflection about how you came up with your ideas and modeled your essay after Swift’s.

Website: www.salon.com features a recurring column called “A Modest Proposal” – that’s where we got the article “Shoot Hoops, Not Hooligans.” This would be a good place to look for ideas.

Student’s Name: _____________________________________________________________________

Due Date: ___________________________________

Grading Rubric (Please attach to your assignment when you hand it in):

Your Score

Possible Points



P1: Indelible Image


P2: Shocking Solution


P3: “Logical” Reasons


P4: Opponent’s Argument


P5: Conclusion




Extra Credit


Total Score


Note on Extra Credit: Up to five points of extra credit will be awarded for your use of elevated vocabulary – like “melancholy” and “prodigious,” both of which Swift uses in his first few paragraphs.

English 10 Mr. Ambrose

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