And They Lived Happily Ever After (Maybe)

I’m really into how things end. Yes, the first chapter in a book needs to be good if I’m going to keep reading it, but the last chapter needs to be even better. Someone once told me that stories are either tragedies (the hero dies) or comedies (the hero lives). For this post, I’ll use more than just two categories, with examples from books and movies. Maybe you’ll have a different opinion. If so, awesome! Different opinions keep a variety of books on the shelves of bookstores. *This post contains spoilers.*

The Disney Princess Ending:

Here’s the basic summary: good guys live, bad guys die or get sent to prison. The hero and heroine are usually married or going to be married soon, and they’re often going to be rich, too. To this category I’ll add Jane Austen novels and most chick flicks.

The Mostly-happy Ending:

The best example of this category is the movie “Star Wars IV: A New Hope” (the first movie in the original series). On one hand things are good: Luke learns to trust the force, Han Solo comes back to help his friends, R2D2 gets repaired, and the Death Star is destroyed. On the other hand, Obi Wan dies, the rebel base has been discovered, the Empire is still out there and a lot stronger than the Rebellion, and Darth Vader is still alive. I’d also put Espionage in this category, but it would involve too many plot spoilers to explain why.

The Tragedy:

For this post, I’m changing the traditional definition (the hero dies) to include anything that’s sad, but in a good way. Like 1984. Winston doesn’t die, yet it’s still a sad ending. But that sad ending makes a good point. Into this category also fall a bunch of Shakespeare plays and books such as A Man for All Seasons and For Whom the Bell Tolls. And the true story of Count von Stauffenberg—it’s told in a few books, and in the recent movie “Valkyrie”. Yeah, he and everyone else involved in the plot to kill Hitler get executed, but at least they tried and got oh-so-close to succeeding.

The And-now-I’ll-throw-the-book-(or DVD)-across-the-room Ending:

Sometimes it’s a fine line between tragedy and just plain awful. Take “Valkyrie”. If von Stauffenberg’s family had been ruthlessly hunted and killed and the Nazis had won the war, I’d put it in this category. Aren’t we glad the Nazis didn’t win the war? Into this category I’d put the original Hans Christian Andersen version of The Little Mermaid (the version where she turns into foam at the end of the story). And “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” (the third one) makes it to this category too. Hero and heroine get married but only get to see each other one day out of every ten years? Horrible! Can’t believe I paid money to see that.

So what type of endings to you like to read (or write) or watch? Feel free to suggest more categories. . . if there’s enough interest, we can do this again on another blog post.

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