Here's a disclaimer, Shmoopers: A Modest Proposal is a political essay that doesn't really stick to a classic plot. Still, Swift adds lots of story-like details to keep readers interested and so our classic plot analysis fits pretty snugly anyway.
Exposition (Initial Situation)
It's Getting Crowded in Here
The streets of Ireland are packed with poor children. You can't take a step outside without running into a swarm of rag-a-muffins and their desperate mothers. Basically, you need to know that it's getting crowded.
Rising Action (Conflict, Complication)
England doesn't want to deal with the mess in Ireland, but the situation is getting dire. Priority number one is saving as much money as possible. No one knows what to do with the gaggle of kids. They're draining resources and becoming a major annoyance.
Climax (Crisis, Turning Point)
Mo' Money, No Problems
In Paragraph 10, the author finally gets around to proposing a solution. It's simple: kids are tasty and cost a lot when they hit the terrible twos. If you fatten them up and sell them for shillings, the famine and overpopulation crisis will be averted.
A Gourmet Meal
The author is racking his brains to anticipate objections to his plan, but he only comes up with one thing: there won't be as many people in Ireland. But that's a good thing, right? Serving up kids will do all sorts of awesome things for Ireland's economy and reduce the population.
Everybody's a winner when the kids get cooked. Irish parents get to pay their rent, foodies get a new treat, and the economy gets a boost.