Happy Endings  

Posted by inkstainedhands in , ,

One of the things that always used to frustrate me about Jane Austen's books was the fact that their endings were invariably happy and immaculate. She would tie up all the loose ends, write out in the last page or two exactly what happened to each of the characters (and obviously, only good things happened to the heroes, while the less-than-stellar characters would simply live unhappy lives or something of that sort). I felt that some of her books just lacked depth. Don't get me wrong; I thoroughly enjoyed reading them and there are some that I can read over and over, and they leave me with a smile on my face, but when I think about it, I feel something is missing... and that's reality.

Not all endings are happy. In fact, many of them are quite the opposite. Those who are good and strive to make the world a better place are often the ones who are left heartbroken and have the bitter endings. Characters who should logically live happily ever after because they 'deserve' it often find that life doesn't work that way in reality.

That is something I occasionally struggle with when I am writing fiction. Will I write a tale of hope and redemption, with a happily-ever-after ending, or will my hero die alone somewhere in a ditch, abandoned and broken-hearted? Will my hero learn the hard way that life isn't usually what you want it to be? And if he does, will he afterwards learn that life can also be worthwhile and rewarding, or will he then be disappointed yet again and his hopes dashed? I so wish for my hero to have a happy ending and to see that life can be good and there is still some goodness left in mankind to counter all the ugliness, but what are the chances?

All I know is that the main character of the short story I am currently writing will die under the moon-lit night sky, heartbroken and betrayed.

I thought I had decided on the fate of my novel's hero too, but now I am not so sure.... My novels cannot have fairytale/Jane Austen endings.

I was thinking about happy endings versus sad endings before, but today is the first of November and therefore the beginning of NaNoWriMo, so I had to make some decisions.

Anyway.... Back to my avalanche of school-related assignments. I am a bit amused though at how I did not blog for a few weeks and then -- BAM! -- I started writing one post after another. When it rains, it pours.

This entry was posted on Sunday, November 1, 2009 at Sunday, November 01, 2009 and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


A book is a rare treat for me, I simply don't have time for reading any more. So when I pick up a book once in a while, I want to be left in good spirits after finishing it. I don't want to walk around heartbroken and lament the state of the universe and humanity because the author tried to portray reality. (If I want a slice of reality, there's always a documentary.) Especially if good characters went through trials and such, I want to see them rewarded with good life.

I am not saying that all the endings should be good; after all, the authors should be free to write whatever they feel is appropriate. I am just trying to defend good endings and their perceived lack of depth.

November 1, 2009 at 11:47 PM

Yeah, I think about this stuff too, and I'm with SubWife: A happy ending can be way too predictable and cheesy, but I've been seeing way too much modern stuff when the hero takes a huge loss and the badguys win hands down. That's even worse. It could be the reality, but everyone knows that human beings (in our society) have a need for justice. And if there's no justice...well that obviously leaves you with a really bad taste in your mouth (think of the film "Chinatown").

November 4, 2009 at 1:30 PM

On one hand, Jane Austen novels do come off like that. On the other, I see a very deadpan, realistic and absolutely merciless take on society - I think this is especially evident in Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion. Yes, in the end it's easy to think "heroine is about to marry decent man she loves = happy end." On the other hand, given that the personalities and the relationship up till now have been depicted with sometimes brutal honesty, is that necessarily the logical conclusion? Also, Austen has a way of making the secondary characters important to the reader as well, and the likely future of people like Jane Fairfax or Marianne... it's really not encouraging.

November 4, 2009 at 9:17 PM

I think there's a balance (or should be) between a "and they all lived happily ever after" cheesy perfect ending and a villian coming out on top. I think there can be a death of a main side character, or something bad happening to him/her, as long as the story doesn't end on a sad note...

November 8, 2009 at 8:50 PM

Hi there--I found your post and thought it was an interesting subject, so I wrote my own take on it and linked to you. Thanks for the inspiration! :) You can find my post here: http://austenacious.com/?p=675

--Miss Ball, Austenacious.com

November 10, 2009 at 2:00 PM

Listen, I reread P&P because it was compared to Twilight. And I did not like what i read. Lizzie is so great?? How? She is one mean spirited, arrogant, selfish witch. Ok, Mr Collins may be short, uncool, and a toady, but he is trying. He tries to marry one of his cousins so they can stay in their home. He is grateful for his little parsonage. Does Lizzie have to make fun of him at dinner? Is that even polite? And Lady Catherine may be overbearing, but she is old. Who talks down to an old lady like that? Only a beyotch. Ok, Thats not why Im hating her. The selfishness. She will only marry for love? If I had to marry Howdy Doody to keep my mom and my sister from being homeless, I would do it. But Lizzie could care less. How can she stand herself after refusing two proposals(one to a man she does love, but is mad at) when she knows that either of them would have saved her family from being peniless? And when Charlotte advises jane to show more interest in Bingley? Liz trashes the idea. . But when later she finds out that Charlotte was right she doesn't blame herself for not passing the info on to Jane. She blames Darcy, and Bingly for misreading her sister. Thats not an arrogant, snide, selfish little *** ?

November 11, 2009 at 2:25 AM

Well at least he/she's got a moon moonlit sky! :)

November 15, 2009 at 9:57 PM

Dust said:

Why don't you try writing a charactar who responds to an ending in an unexpected way. So, for instance things can end badly, yet the charactar realizes that this is a better outcome then whta they would've wanted prior. Or, the charactar thinks the ending is happy while in reality he/she remains a victum of some real or metaphorical enchantmemt..?

November 15, 2009 at 10:02 PM

One of the things that I love about blogging is that I get to see what other people think about a subject. I give my opinion, and then I get to see all the other ways to look at it from different perspectives. So thank you to everyone for the feedback.

What some of you mentioned was that there was something unpleasant about the good guy 'losing' and the villain 'coming out on top.' I never meant to say that the character that is generally recognized as the 'villain' should come out on top. Whether he does or not is a separate issue. But if a story or a book focuses on a man's internal struggle or relationship with the world, the question is how he ends up in relation to his own thoughts and dreams, not in relation to the villain's success or failure.

Miss Ball -- Thank you! I'm quite honored that you decided to write about this, and I found your post very interesting.

lollipop -- Well, that is certainly a fresh way of looking at it. I don't think I ever thought of it that way. But I would venture to say that Lizzie does not deserve some of the adjectives you used to describe her. I think that what she lacks most is reason. Lizzie is passionate and emotional; when she is in such a state, it is difficult for her to be reasonable. No matter how much the reasonable part of her brain might have encouraged her to do what was necessary to help her family, the emotional part wouldn't allow it.

And yes, the moon-lit sky should be of some consolation! ;]

November 18, 2009 at 12:43 AM

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