Happy endings versus realistic endings

Posted: August 23, 2013 in Books & Reading
Tags: , , , ,

I’m a sucker for a happy ending, just like the next happy-go-lucky, head-in-the-clouds gal. Nothing makes me more gleeful than turning that final page and releasing a sigh of pure contentedness that tells me I finished another book that I’ll be sad to let go.

But sometimes those books just aren’t realistic. Sometimes an important character needs to die, a couple needs to break up, and the ending needs to leave you crying instead of sighing. Some books I can think of off the top of my head that did this are The Fault in Our Stars, Skin, and Tuesdays with Morrie.

I like happy endings because I think books should reflect an ideal world whenever possible. They’re meant to help us escape, to allow us to believe in hope and love, to make us think that perhaps this world has the potential to be better than it is.

But not every story is meant to be that way. If you looked at stories like The Fault in Our Stars, which deals with a very realistic portrayal of cancer patients, what would it say if the book ended up with everyone happy and cured and living their dream lives? It would feel fake and undermine the whole point of the book.

Then again, to constantly beat up characters and not even allow them to come back triumphant would be tragic – not only to them, but to the reader as well. Who wants to be kicked down so far that they can’t even pick themselves back up?

It really is a balance in any story, and the ending should reflect a lot more than just the author’s whims. It should make sense according to the plot, the characters, and the setting and world. An ending that seems out of place could ruin an entire book.

I like a good mix of realistic endings and happy ones. But if I had to choose, I’d go with happy endings every time. Call me superficial, but I can be a mush sometimes.

If you HAD to choose, would you pick to only read books with happy endings, or realistic ones?

  1. I’m right there with you. I could not watch the movie “My Girl” once I found out how that story ended. I cried for hours at the end of Gone With The Wind. I much prefer to end on a silver lining rather than a dark cloud.

  2. Gloria Weber says:

    I figure I get enough reality from life. I choose to read mostly happy ending books as is. I do my best to avoid depressing things. I’m an escapist reader. Life is hard. I like to play fluffy. Um… I’ll stop talking now.

  3. Most of the time I prefer realistic endings. Quite often I feel cheated if a convenient happy ending comes out of nowhere. However, if the book is well written and I get really attached to characters, I think I secretly wish for them to have a happy ending.

  4. I guess it depends on whether the story’s intended for escapism or not. Or there could be a surprise ending…one of the best novels I read was Hemingway’s ‘Farewell to Arms’, which had a dismally black ending to it. I didn’t see it coming – as Hemingway intended. And yet it was exactly what the story needed to lift it from ‘great’ to ‘awesome’.

    • Karen Rought says:

      Not that I need any more books on my TBR list, but I’m adding this one. I really enjoy stories that pull the rug out from under you. So many times everything is so easy to guess that although it’s enjoyable, it makes those really shocking finales something to look forward to.

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