The End Justifies the Means

Do you prefer happy or sad endings?

Personally, I prefer happy endings. When I read a book, it’s a form of escapism for me. I want to forget my troubles, I want to be entertained. When I read a book, I am emotionally vested in the characters; in some ways they are more real to me than some people I know in my life. So of course I want them to live happily ever after. Or at least, know that that chapter in their life ended well. It makes the adventures or the journey in the story more worthwhile; to know that after all that they’ve been through, they got what they deserved.

Now, I’m not saying all books should have a happy ending to make it a good book for me. Sometimes, sad endings make a better impact on the reader than a happy ending would. It is more close to home, more realistic. It makes you think about the story again, and it makes you relate it to yourself.

I think a good author has the ability to make a good ending, whether it’s happy or sad. Neil Gaiman’s Stardust makes a good example. The book has a comparatively sadder ending than the movie’s happy, slightly cheesy ending, but I think they’re both good in their own ways, though I personally prefer the movie. I understand that fans of the books may not agree with me though. 😉 That said, what is your personal preference? Think about your favourite books – are they mostly happy or sad endings? No sitting on the fence on this one! 🙂

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. RhiGirl
    Feb 23, 2008 @ 02:56:39

    I prefer happy endings myself. A story isn’t complete unless it has a resolution to the original conflict. At least, that’s how I look at it. It’s a bit difficult for me to get through stream of consciousness prose as a result, ’cause I can’t figure out if there’s a conflict that needs resolution in there somewhere!

    nylusmilk: true, but i guess stories that try to be as realistic as possible may not be able to do that as sometimes there isn’t a good or bad ending to a conflict; it’s as if it was written for… posterity? haha, maybe i’m too dense to appreciate the meaning of such books!

    Reply

  2. cjwriter
    Feb 24, 2008 @ 00:41:25

    I find that usually the ending doesn’t bother me as long as it feels right; it can be happy or sad, it’s whether it feels like a natural extension of the story that matters. I think that comes back to whether the set up is believable; if the characters do something at the end that doesn’t feel like something they would do, it creates a different ending, and that’s what I don’t like. IMO that’s when an ending usually feels forced.

    As a reader, though, I do prefer a happy ending; I’ve invested my time into the characters and story, so of course I want to see it end well. What I find interesting, though, is what is a happy ending? If the hero (or heroine) saves the world but one of the characters dies, does that make the ending happy or sad? Something like Bridge to Terabithia is bittersweet and I’m not sure where that would fit in.

    But either ending can work; I’m happy enough as long as it makes sense! So does that count as fence-sitting? 🙂

    nylusmilk: yes, that’s fence-sitting! but you did say you prefer a happy one, so you did answer the question. 😉 you make a good point about believable endings. i’ve read many chick lit books where the endings were happy but i was not! haha… as for ambiguous endings, like lord of the rings or as you said bridge to terabithia, i would never like them as much as total (but believable) happy endings. there will always be that tinge of sadness in the happy ending, and as a reader, i regret that the sad things has to happen for the ending to be happy.

    but then again, that’s how life works, and often art does imitate life…

    Reply

  3. RG
    Feb 24, 2008 @ 07:15:45

    nylusmilk: true, but i guess stories that try to be as realistic as possible may not be able to do that as sometimes there isn’t a good or bad ending to a conflict; it’s as if it was written for… posterity? haha, maybe i’m too dense to appreciate the meaning of such books!

    Nah, you make a good point. 🙂 Not every resolution will be a happy one, even if it provides closure.

    nylusmilk: exactly. i guess if the journey’s good, it doesn’t matter how’s the destination like. 🙂

    Reply

  4. aloi
    Feb 24, 2008 @ 20:44:06

    ugh, i NEED to fence sit on this one. sorry! i hate it when books-made-into-movies change the book ending so that it is more “palatable” to the audience. remember scarlet letter turned into a movie? the adulterer gets away scot free, married to boot.

    that being said, endings should be logical the entire story – it’s not a matter of preference 🙂

    nylusmilk: i don’t know, i’ve seen movies which are better than the books. i like stardust, the lord of the rings trilogy, the two bridget jones movies and the devil wears prada. memoirs of a geisha was a bad movie version though.

    Reply

  5. Trackback: Movie Adaptations of Books « The Literary Pursuit

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