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2015 | 24/1 | 73-82

Article title

The Use of Ambiguity and Inconclusive Endings in Graham Swift’s Novels


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The paper examines, with reference to Swift’s later novels (The Light of Day, Tomorrow, Wish You Were Here), the function of his consistently employed strategies which, rather than undermine, reinforce the writer’s commitment to realism and give his narratives additional power and depth. His characters are mostly ordinary people, yet their lives are shaped or changed by a larger historical context or by dramatic events beyond their control, and often, beyond their understanding. Swift’s claim that literature brings us into contact with fire, yet we do not get burned, echoes Aristotle’s notion of catharsis. To make this contact with fire possible, Swift selects easily recognizable ordinary areas of shared human experience, which bring the reader close to the protagonist, and simultaneously establish distance by deliberate indeterminacies and refusal to provide disambiguation. A paradoxical coexistence of identification with characters and an underlying sense of suspicion on the part of the reader produce a unique version of contemporary realistic narrative with its ethical and aesthetic commitment.


  • Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski University
  • Jagiellonian University


  • Lea, Daniel. 2005. Graham Swift. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • Malcolm, David. 2003. Understanding Graham Swift. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.
  • Swift, Graham. 1986. Interview by Jenny Hammerton. UKC Student Newspaper 18
  • Swift, Graham. 1988. Interview by Patrick McGrath. Boyd Magazine.
  • Swift, Graham. 2003. The Light of Day. London: Hamish Hamilton.
  • Swift, Graham. 2008. Tomorrow. London: Picador.
  • Swift, Graham. 2012. Wish You Were Here. London; Picador.

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