A Modest Proposal CommonLit Answers Key

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A Modest Proposal is the name of the novel by an Anglo-Irish essayist, writer, and political pamphleteer named Jonathan Swift. In this book, he offers an unconventional solution to poverty in Ireland. For those who have read A modest Proposal on CommonLit and have answered the questions on the site and want to check if they are all correct, here is the answer key:

Guiding questions:

  1. Which of the following best summarizes the problem the author sees in his society?
    A. There are not enough jobs for the women to work and provide for their families.
    B. Too many men are abandoning their families, leaving them in poverty.
    C. Children are not receiving proper educations from the government.
    D. Poverty and starvation are increasingly plaguing the streets.
    Answer: D. Poverty and starvation are increasingly plaguing the streets.
  2. The author believes that his plan…
    A. will only help the poor.
    B. should only apply to newborn infants.
    C. will improve everyone’s lives.
    D. will prevent children from being illegitimate.
    Answer: C. will improve everyone’s lives.
  3. What problem does the author face concerning infants in his plan?
    They are too young to provide for themselves or contribute to society.
    They need constant attention and affection from the parents.
    They contract illness very easily and often die within the first year.
    They are worth far more as infants than they are as adolescents.
    Answer: A. They are too young to provide for themselves or contribute to society.
  4. The author reveals that his solution is…
    to sell children off for labor.
    to teach children chiefly about agriculture.
    to take the infants away from their mothers.
    to breed, raise, and eat the infants like livestock.
    Answer: D. to breed, raise, and eat infants like livestock.
  5. The author’s description of his plan is…
    pragmatic and precise.
    sensitive and compassionate.
    horrified and scared.
    harsh and unforgiving.
    Answer: A. pragmatic and precise.
  6. Which of the following is NOT an objection to the author’s friend “refinement” to his scheme?
    Young men’s flesh would be too tough and distasteful.
    Young women are more likely to become “breeders”.
    The friend’s proposal is a little too cruel for his tastes.
    There is no criteria in place for cannibalizing teenagers.
    Answer: D. There is no criteria in place for cannibalizing teenagers.
  7. Which of the following is NOT a benefit of the author’s scheme?
    There will be fewer numbers of poor people and “papists”.
    Poor people will finally have something of value.
    The nation can expect growth in its overall economy.
    People will be less likely to marry and have so many children.
    Answer: D. People will be less likely to marry and have so many children.
  8. The only objection the author foresees is…
    that there will not be enough babies to go around.
    that cannibalism is an immoral practice.
    that the poor will refuse and will revolt against such inhuman treatment.
    that his plan will reduce the population, which was his goal all along.
    Answer: D. that his plan will reduce the population, which was his goal all along.
  9. Which of the following statements would the narrator most likely agree with when it comes to alternate solutions?
    They aren’t worth considering if no one will act on them.
    Hope is the only solution for a better future.
    They need more money before they can be considered.
    Alternate solutions will just divide people instead of uniting them.
    Answer: A. They aren’t worth considering if no one will act on them.
  10. How does the author justify his proposal to potential critics?
    His wife and children are too old to qualify his proposal, but he states he would if they were not.
    He doesn’t care whether the proposal is put into action or not, and so he doesn’t need to justify it.
    He claims there are plenty of poor people that would prefer having been sold as food, instead of suffering later.
    He claims there are plenty of starving poor people that would voluntarily eat their own children
    Answer: C. He claims there are plenty of poor people that would prefer having been sold as food, instead of suffering later.

Assessment questions:

  1. PART A: Which TWO of the following statements best describe the central ideas of the text?
    Answer: B. In order to control population and poverty, the children of the poor should be sold as food.
    D. The social situation during this time is dire, with poverty rampant throughout the kingdom, particularly in Ireland.
  2. PART B: Which TWO of the following paragraphs best support the answers to Part A?
    Answer: B. Paragraph 6
    E. Paragraph 24
  3. PART A: To what is the author referring when using words like “breeders” (Paragraph 5, Paragraph 14, Paragraph 18, and Paragraph 21) and “commodity” (Paragraph 6 and Paragraph 29) in the text?
    Answer: A. poor child-bearing women and their children
  4. PART B: What effect does the author’s word choice have on the tone of the text?
    Answer: A. It makes the proposal sound even more ridiculous and over-the-top.
  5. How does the following quote develop the narrator’s point of view?: “I desire those politicians who dislike my overture… that they will first ask the parents of these mortals, whether they would not at this day think it a great happiness to have been sold for food, at a year old in the manner I prescribe, and thereby have avoided such a perpetual scene of misfortunes as they have since gone through by the oppression of landlords, the impossibility of paying rent without money or trade, the want of common sustenance, with neither house nor clothes to cover them from the inclemencies of the weather, and the almost inevitable prospect of entailing the like or greater miseries upon their breed ever.” (Paragraph 32)
    Answer: In this passage, Swift is making the point that maybe adults in poverty right now would have preferred to have been sold off for food at one year old rather than be living the life that they are. He points out the difficulties they are facing because of their landlords and the upper class and proposes that they might have been better off if they had been eaten as babies. This reinforces Swift’s point because it uses satire to point out something very, very wrong in their society that is a result of class inequality.
  6. How does Swift’s use of hyperbole, or exaggeration, contribute to this satirical text?
    Answer: D. By suggesting taboos such as infanticide and cannibalism to solve social issues, Swift employs hyperbole to satirize the government and upper class’s lack of concern for poverty.
  7. Which TWO groups is Swift ultimately criticizing in “A Modest Proposal”?
    Answer: A. the poor/lower class
    C. the Catholics

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