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A Turn of Events, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 386

Essay

Although I had heard of Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal and knew (more or less) what the proposal consisted off, I had never actually read it until now. So I was able to receive this assignment with an open mind, and when charged with discussing the “surprise ending” I vaguely assumed that it was the modest proposal itself (and it was surely a surprise when first published) — that the children of Ireland’s poor be sold and cooked. But I now take it that the surprise ending is the last sentence. It is on that conclusion that I base the following discussion.

I first realized that the surprise ending wasn’t the modest proposal itself, when Swift wrote I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection. It takes place too early in the piece to constitute an ending, never mind a surprise one. So I read on. When I got to Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients and read what followed, I thought that this might be the surprise: Swift doing a rhetorical 180-degree turn and seeming to shame the reader with a list of far more reasonable proposals (taxing our absentees at five shillings a pound). It reminded me a bit of Scrooge suddenly learning to love Christmas. But that wasn’t the case here, given his comment that Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like expedients, ’till he hath at least some glympse of hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice. It’s a bit of a surprise in its own right — we learn that no one would take such reasonable-seeming proposals seriously at all. He’s staying in character. But it’s still not the end.

It can only be the last sentence of the last paragraph, which is a surprise. Swift stays completely in character and manages to top his modest proposal with an offhand, self-justifying remark, by which he maintains his good intentions by implying he would never sire a bastard.

Reference

Swift, J. (1729.) A Modest Proposal for preventing the children of poor people in Ireland, from being a burden on their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the publick. Retrieved from http://www.victorianweb.org/previctorian/swift/modest.html

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