The idea for this post came out of a book I recently read. I loved the storyline, the romance was on point… and then a main character died at the end of the novel. To say I was disheartened doesn’t quite cover it. So it got me thinking, should books always have happy endings? My answer is unequivocally yes and here’s why:
1) It’s called fiction for a reason. There’s a relatively old movie called The Breakup, and I remember my cousin told me she didn’t like it because it was too much like real life. And that got me thinking. If I want real life, I can read newspapers. In my opinion, a novel is supposed to pick you up and set you in places you’ve never been and introduce you to people you’ve never met. In other words, it is escapism not reality, so although it makes sense for a main character to die after doing xyz, it’s fiction. Let ’em live.
2) I want to be entertained. I saw the movie Million Dollar Baby and I can barely remember the plot or whether or not the acting was good. What I do remember is my dad handing me wrinkled napkins and sobbing into his shoulder. Hated that movie. I have a rule and it’s called I don’t pay to leave depressed. The same rule applies to books. I want to be entertained. I want to feel like I’m glad I bought that book instead of wanting to throw it across the room.
3) I need closure. Has anyone seen Gone with the Wind? I have (book is better!) and let me tell you, never has there been a more annoying character on the face of the earth than Scarlett O’Hara, but still, that ending gets me every single time. Did it make sense for Rhett to leave? Yes, but my romantic heart was like that’s it! That’s how it ends! I think readers need closure and unhappy endings leave me feeling like the book isn’t finished and then I feel like I’ve wasted my time.
4) Unhappy endings have me questioning the purpose of the book. Titanic. Everyone has seen it, I’m sure. I have no problem with books that deal with tragic circumstances. If the director had allowed the Titanic to reach America that would have been a problem. And for that fact, I’m not saying no one can die in novels. I just have a problem with endings that leave me thinking what the mess? After Jack died (hope I didn’t give it away), I kept wondering what the point of the movie was exactly. Are you trying to make me cry?
5) I don’t want to have to pray myself to sleep. Ever see a movie that just disturbs your spirit? It’s not scary, but there’s just something about it (I’m not going to name the one I’m thinking of) that makes you want to leave the light on at night? Please don’t do that to me as a reader. Don’t make me put down your book and realize I now have to pray myself to sleep and not in a good way. This kind of praying is please Jesus don’t give me nightmares praying. I fail to comprehend why that is ok.
6) It gives the reader something to hold onto. I love to know the endings of books and movies, but I don’t want to know the details. So how does this translate exactly? Sometimes, when I pick up a new author, I’ll flip to the last page, try to ignore names and just make sure it ends with two people in love with each other. That way, when I start the novel, no matter how much drama there is, or whatever is thrown the couple’s way, I know in the end they will get together. That means a lot to people (chick flicks anyone?). When I have no clue as to what will happen cause it’s just one of those movies where lots of people are dying (Hotel Rwanda), I can just feel my blood pressure rising and my heart skipping beats. It’s like being on a roller coaster, and I don’t like roller coasters. I can take the bad stuff in books and movies better, if I know the main characters will come out good in the end. Yes, it’s a cop out, but that’s how I’m wired.
So anyone disagree? Anyone love sad endings? Anyone feel they’re necessary? Thoughts?