People have different pursuits in life. Some try to pursue happiness, others prestige, popularity, impact, or excellence. While some people live the lives they desire others don’t. It all depends on the choices people make. Good choices enable one to achieve their pursuits. Swift in ‘A Modest Proposal’ had a pursuit of improving the lives of the poor. On the other hand, Ivan in ‘The Death of Ivan Ilyich’, had a pursuit of happiness. He wanted to live a happy life that is attractive to society. Swift’s satirical proposal was effective enough to challenge people to develop a humane strategy to help the poor. On the other hand, Ivan died an unhappy person. Therefore, Swift was most successful at achieving the “life” he desired compared to Ivan.
When faced with problems, Swift and Ivan came up with solutions that helped achieve what they wanted in life. Swift developed effectively a solution that would impact the lives of others while Ivan came up with a solution that would give him happiness but only for a short while. Swift realized that the children of poor people in Ireland had become a burden to their parents and also to the country. He talks of many female beggars who live in the streets with their three to six children in rags (Swift p1). The many helpless children had forced the mothers and sometimes the fathers to stroll begging for sustenance.
Having such a number living in the streets pursuing every passenger for assistances renders the country in a deplorable state. Therefore, a better solution was required and Swift was strong enough to propose one. He proposes making children at one year meal for landlords. He says that consuming the infants’ flesh would be an effective solution (Swift p5). Upon realizing that his wife was becoming a problem, Ivan also came up with a solution that would impact his life positively. After marriage, Ivan’s life becomes unpleasant and depressing yet he always wanted to live a happy life (Tolstoy p13). A life that everyone in the society admired. He decided to ignore the wife’s ranting by going out to clubs, and spending more time with friends. However, this gave me short time happiness.
Swift wanted to make an impact on others’ lives while Ivan wanted to create a good image for himself to society. When Swift realized that the poor especially the children were suffering in the streets, he saw the need for a better solution. A satirical proposal that would effectively touch everyone involved with solving these problems. He used a different way of sensitizing people about the need for taking care of the poor children in a better way. He proposed that mothers let the children suck in plentiful to become fat and plump for a tasty meal (Swift p5). Proposing that consuming the infant’s flesh would reduce the number of Papists in the country was very sensitive that everyone would want better strategies to deal with the poor in the streets. Swift wanted a better life for the poor living in the streets. He wanted humane approaches to dealing with the crisis. His proposal was challenging enough to have people think about better strategies just as he wanted.
Different from Swift, Ivan wanted to achieve his own happiness. He wanted a life that was approved by the society. He therefore held on to his marriage which was needed for approval by society. He took marriage as part of his official duties. He only needed it for some conveniences such as housewife, bed, and home (Tolstoy p13). This would also be good for public opinion. He then focused on his job which would give him more publicity just as he liked it. His career success was important enough to give him the life satisfaction he needed. After moving to another province as a Public Prosecutor, Ivan was unable to cater to the needs of his family, making his life unpleasant again. At this point, Ivan’s marriage life was unpleasant preventing him from living the life he always desired.
Improving the lives of the poor drove Swift towards the achievement of his pursuit in life. On the other hand, being materialistic hindered Ivan from achieving the happiness that he always desired. All Swift wanted was the implementation of a solution that would prevent the suffering of the poor. The poor had gone through a lot of misfortunes including having no basic needs. They lacked clothes to cover their bodies especially during the cold weather. They lacked houses. There was no money to pay rent or even trade. They were oppressed by landlords. All these miseries required an urgent solution. Swift wanted an effective solution, one that would prevent such miseries (Swift p9). His satirical proposals he says would benefit the parents as well as the country. The mothers would have some money that they would use to pay rent while the country would benefit from economic growth. Swift however, states that he would not reject a better proposal (Swift p8). This argument clearly indicates that all that he wishes to achieve in life is happiness for other people. He cares about the wellness of other people. His concern renders him to give the satirical proposal which gives people an opportunity to develop a better strategy just as he needed.
On the other hand, Ivan was materialistic which hindered him from the pursuit of his life. He cares a lot about material things just as others in the middle class. He loved buying things that could impress others. He is delighted with the new home is St. Petersburg that he puts all his efforts in giving it a perfect finishing. Just as other middle class people. He wanted to look rich (Tolstoy p17). For Ivan, this is the kind of life he always wanted. Living a happy life. Anything that would help him keep up appearances was very important to him. Even when things were awful, his concern was that things looked normal to society. Being materialistic made him think that he was actually happy.
Honesty enabled Swift to encourage humane strategies for dealing with the poor. On the other hand, dishonesty prevented Ivan from achieving happiness in life. Swift gave his honest opinion on the best strategies to deal with the poor in the streets. His proposal would help in reducing the number of poor, prevent children from experiencing miseries, and boost the economy (Swift p8). By giving his proposal of selling one year babies for consumption, Swift was able to show how inhumane humans have been in their attempt to help the poor. The honest proposal calls for respect for others’ lives. By just reading the proposal, a reader feels sorry for the young children and wishes there was a better solution. This is exactly what Swift was looking for. He wanted the poor to be treated better in the country. He desired a better life for those in the streets.
On the other hand, Ivan preferred dishonesty just to impress the society which eventually barred him from living the kind of life he wanted. He lied about his marriage pretending all was well. A time came when he saw the other side of dishonesty. His wife and those around him when he got sick lied in the way they treated him. They pretended that he was only ill and not dying. The lied that get treatment would heal him (Tolstoy p56). Their dishonesty tortures him reminding him of the lies he had lived in his entire life. Clearly, he did not live the life he always wanted.
Love for others motivated Swift to influence people to think about the poor in a humane way while self-interest prevented Ivan from living the life he wanted. At the end of the proposal, Swift says that he would least benefit from the selling of the infants. To him all he wanted was to relieve the poor from distress miseries (Swift p9). He has no children below one year who he would sell and benefit financially. Additionally, his wife would no longer bear children. He would therefore not benefit directly with the implementation of the proposal. His purpose was only to alleviate suffering from the poor. This showed how serious the problem was and how badly a solution was required. The horrifying proposal was effective in challenging society to find better ways of helping the poor in the country. This is the kind of life he desired. A society where the poor are treated humanely.
On the other hand, the self-interest of Ivan leads to an illness that ended his life. Ivan illness started when he fell while putting up curtains. He wanted a perfect house for a good public opinion. This was the start of his unpleasant life. He goes through discomfort and pain. He reached a point feeling sorry for himself (Tolstoy p44). All he wanted was to live pleasantly but he was lonely at the time of death and even realized how unhappy his life was even when it seemed pleasant. Contrary to what he desired in life, Ivan died in a lot of pain and discomfort. Things that he despised in life.
In conclusion, it is clear that Swift was most successful at achieving the “life” he desired compared to Ivan. Swift’s satirical proposal in ‘A Modest Proposal’ was effective enough to challenge people to develop a humane strategy to help the poor. On the other hand, Ivan in ‘The Death of Ivan Ilyich’ died an unhappy person. Therefore, Swift was the most successful at achieving the “life” he desired compared to Ivan. Swift wanted to impact the lives of the poor positively. Through the satirical proposal, people are able to see how inhumane the poor are treated sensitizing them on the need for better strategies. This is what Swift wanted. Strategies that would change life for the poor. On the other hand, Ivan wanted to live a happy life that is attractive to society. He was only able to live such a life for a short time after which he lived a painful and uncomfortable life which ended in death.
Swift, Jonathan, “A Modest Proposal- 1729” The Project Gutenberg EBook, 2008, pp. 1-14.
Tolstoy, Lev, “The Death of Ivan Ilych” Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1866, pp. 1-59.