Happily Ever After…Or Not

I like happy endings.  It’s true.  I think (I could be wrong) that most people do, too.

How is it that professors always choose the most depressing stories to read for class?  I know that this “realism” thing is the fad now in higher education—this idea that real situations hardly ever end well and that stories should reflect that.  Don’t you think, though, that that’s the reason we have stories—to bring us up out of the dregs of real life and give us something to make us see that things can turn out right?

Maybe I’m just a sap (I doubt it); or a bit idealistic (only slightly more likely); but I do think that the purpose of stories is to lift people up.  Sometimes, a story does require a sad ending; sometimes that gets across the point.  Even then, that point should inspire people to do something, to think something.

So far, I’ve been inspired to stop reading depressing short stories.

I think the worst endings are the sad ones that leave you wondering what the point of it all was.  Stories that end sadly and unresolved really do that.  Like where you spend the entire story watching a couple’s marriage fall apart, only at the end for them to tell each other things they didn’t want to know and then sit down at a table and cry.  What was the point?

I didn’t get anything out of that.  I didn’t enjoy it.  I’m not sure how observing such a sad event could be enjoyable.  So, clearly, the point wasn’t entertainment.  I didn’t learn anything, except that how we communicate with each other is a big deal, but I really didn’t need all that to learn something most people already know.

The story started out compelling. The characters had a problem; they were even (sort of) trying to fix it.  But, to quote Mark Twain, the “tale accomplishes nothing and arrives in air” (from his essay “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses”).  Mark Twain is considered by many to have been a great author, and he critiqued “The Deerslayer” on these same grounds.  Standards for good writing can’t have changed that much.

After all, every single writing class I’ve ever taken has said that readers want to see a problem, they want to see the protagonist actively working to solve it, and they want to see something happen.  If a story ends with everything up in the air, that’s not much of an ending.

Personal opinion, I know.

Don’t get me wrong, I love grad school, but I was dismayed by the fact that we somehow ended up with three such stories to read in the same week.  I’m hoping for something better next week.
We’ll see!

 

By the way, I highly recommend “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses.”  It’s hilarious, and it can be read online on a number of different websites.

4 thoughts on “Happily Ever After…Or Not”

  1. Couldn’t agree more. I find actual literature and the stuff academia tells you is literature are two different things—alright, maybe they’re both literature, but that the point has been obscured by “forward thinking.” Reading and writing is a means of expression, of escapism, and learning how to deal with problems. Far too often the things I read in college were like a surgeon opening up a wound, the reader assuming that they’ll patch them back up again, only to find the doctor clocking out prematurely! There was no full circle, no denouement, and no sense of completion. Just an open wound. Here’s hoping that you’ll find something better in the future. Heaven knows we need people who are looking for, and willing to create more happy endings, even if it comes at a great cost.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That is an incredibly fitting metaphor!

    Lately, I’ve been reading fairy tale retellings in order to get that happy ending–a LOT of fairy tale retellings. It does a pretty good job of compensating for all the unresolved/unsatisfactory endings in those short stories. Did you know that some writers have taken Disney movies and changed the story to happen differently? The Aladdin one was pretty good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks!
      I haven’t read any specific Disney retelling, but a while back I had read a retelling of Cinderella that left me…more than a bit confused, haha. I can’t remember the title or author, but it takes off right after Cinderella is engaged to the prince. She realizes that Prince Charming is vain and unfit to rule a poverish kingdom, so she runs away before the wedding, returns to her roots, and finds home in a refuge camp. It was…interesting, haha.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That does sound different. If you’re interested in any obscure fairy tales/interesting retellings, I’d recommend Sunlight and Shadow, which is a take on The Magic Flute. It was pretty different too.

        Like

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