Plot Twist

Definition of Plot Twist

Plot twist is an unexpected development in a literary work or film. The term plot twist comprises a combination of two words, plot, which is an autonomous term with, twist, having separate meanings. Yet, it is not a compound word.

In literature, however, it means a technique that brings a seachange in the plot in a way that it entirely turns to the opposite direction from the expected direction that it seems to take.

Although such twists are quite common, sometimes a twist occurs just at the end of the story and takes a sharp turn. This is where it surprises the readers, causing an immediate response in the shape of fear, awe, happiness, or laughter. This new conflict, sometimes, just ends, while, at other times, it becomes quite linear. Some other techniques that support plot twists are flashbacks, cliffhangers, red herring, and reverse chronology.

Examples of Plot Twist in Literature

Example #1

From Animal Farm by George Orwell

One day in early summer Squealer ordered the sheep to follow him, and led them out to a piece of waste ground at the other end of the farm, which had become overgrown with birch saplings. The sheep spent the whole day there browsing at the leaves under Squealer’s supervision. In the evening he returned to the farmhouse himself, but, as it was warm weather, told the sheep to stay where they were. It ended by their remaining there for a whole week, during which time the other animals saw nothing of them. Squealer was with them for the greater part of every day. He was, he said, teaching them to sing a new song, for which privacy was needed.

This passage occurs in Animal Farm by George Orwell. Although it seems a linear format of the story, the entry of Squealer at this point to train sheep for a new song seems a twist in the plot. Although it resolves quickly as the readers come to know that it is part of the game hatched by Squealer and his cohorts, yet it is a strong plot twist that sets the stage for a change in the story.

Example #2

From The Jungle by Upton Sinclaire

—So spoke an orator upon the platform; and two thousand pairs of eyes were fixed upon him, and two thousand voices were cheering his every sentence. The orator had been the head of the city’s relief bureau in the stock yards, until the sight of misery and corruption had made him sick. He was young, hungry-looking, full of fire; and as he swung his long arms and beat up the crowd, to Jurgis he seemed the very spirit of the revolution. “Organize! Organize!
Organize!”—that was his cry. He was afraid of this tremendous vote, which his party had not expected, and which it had not earned.

This passage occurs at the end of The Jungle written by Upton Sinclaire. Here Jurgis has sensed that revolution is going to occur and the cry of “Organize” has taken the lead. Therefore, he is afraid that his party is unprepared for this tremendous response that he thinks is premature. This is a sudden plot twist at the end of the story.

Example #3

From Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

His voice became fainter as he spoke, and at length, exhausted by his effort, he sank into silence. About half an hour afterwards he attempted again to speak but was unable; he pressed my hand feebly, and his eyes closed forever, while the irradiation of a gentle smile passed away from his lips. Margaret, what comment can I make on the untimely extinction of this glorious spirit? What can I say that will enable you to understand the depth of my sorrow? All that I should express would be inadequate and feeble. My tears flow; my mind is overshadowed by a cloud of disappointment. But I journey towards England, and I may there find consolation. I am interrupted. What do these sounds portend? It is midnight; the breeze blows fairly, and the watch on deck scarcely stir. Again there is a sound as of a human voice, but hoarser; it comes from the cabin where the remains of Frankenstein still lie. I must arise and examine. Good night, my sister.

This passage occurs at the end of the novel. Here Victor is, again, writing a letter to his sister, Margaret about the misfortunes interspersed with occasional questions and his own inadequacy to deal with the situation. Here his good night to his sister is ominous and a sudden twist in the linear story that seems to announce his death obliquely. This is a very good plot twist in the novel.

Example #4

From Hard Times by Charles Dickens

It is a dangerous thing to see anything in the sphere of a vain blusterer, before the vain blusterer sees it himself. Mr. Bounderby felt that Mrs. Sparsit had audaciously anticipated him, and presumed to be wiser than he. Inappeasably indignant with her for her triumphant discovery of Mrs. Pegler, he turned this presumption, on the part of a woman in her dependent position, over and over in his mind, until it accumulated with turning like a great snowball. At last, he made the discovery that to discharge this highly connected female – to have it in his power to say, ‘She was a woman of family, and wanted to stick to me, but I wouldn’t have it, and got rid of her’ – would be to get the utmost possible amount of crowning glory out of the connection, and at the same time to punish Mrs. Sparsit according to her deserts.

This passage occurs at the end of Hard Times when Mr. Bounderby faces the situation in reverse when he thinks that he must punish Mrs. Sparsit quite contrary to his own notion about her. This is a sudden twist in the plot at the end that Mr. Bounderby has turned his position toward a female character.

Functions of Plot Twist

A plot twist not only surprises the readers but also makes them believe in things that the authors want to convey. A plot twist makes the story believable and entertains the readers so that they could desire more. Writers use plot twists to convey their messages effectively by abruptly ending the story with a twist.

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