23 Apr 2022


Surprise Ending in Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”

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Academic level: College

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Words: 400

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Many authors employ the techniques of “surprise ending” when telling their stories. The surprise is caused by a radical change in the reader’s expected outcome. This is used to show satire, and “A Modest Proposal” is one of such stories with a surprise ending and surprising elements within the story. This paper seeks to examine the “surprise ending” in the reading, other points in the story with surprising elements, and the author’s success at convincing the reader on the validity of the ending.

The surprise ending in the text occurs when the author suggests that the solution to Ireland’s problem is selling of feeding of children until they are plumb then selling them as food to the wealthy. The author states that this was the simplest and most effective way to solve the social and economic difficulties that Ireland was facing. The author also says that the proposal would also rid the country of the many children that were not properly cared for (Swift, 2003). The surprise comes after a lengthy and rational argument on the need to devise new solutions to the country’s problems. The author explains how people had tried to think of solutions in vain. These solutions were fairly extreme and complex. He states that his solution was the best and the simplest leaving the leader in awe.

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This suggestion is a surprise since the reader never anticipates such an unprecedented solution. The fact that it comes after a well thought out logical argument even deepens the surprise. While reading the text, I expected the author to come up with a very clear and genius solution to the problem. Throughout the text, the author never takes any sides while discussing the problems facing Ireland (Phiddian, 2013). This made me anticipate what side he would take at the end. Then there was the shift in tone and the completely unexpected ending. Even though Ireland was faced with problems, the selling, and eating of children was not, necessarily, the most effective solution. That would be insane.

The author does create a rather believable and surprising ending. Even though his solution cannot possibly be implemented by any government or man, it seems like the only solution to Ireland’s woes. His vivid description of the problem, which makes up the most of the text, also contributes to the reader’s understanding of the problems and the failure of the government to solve them (Phiddian, 2013). In conclusion, Smith’s story is more of a backlash on the government to reduce poverty, provide the basic needs, and solve the other problems Ireland was facing.


Phiddian, R. (2013). A Modest Proposal in the Context of Swift's Irish Tracts: A Relevance-Theoretic Study by Maria-Angeles Ruiz Moneva (review). The Scriblerian and the Kit-Cats , 45(2), 256-258.

Swift, J. (2003). A Modest Proposal. The Victorian Web . Retrieved from http://www.victorianweb.org/previctorian/swift/modest.html

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 14). Surprise Ending in Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”.


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