Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Why Books Need Happy Endings--or at Least Closure...

Recently I read "The Hunger Games".  I felt let down at the end, but I haven't read the sequels yet.  I also felt sad because the story uncomfortably depicted where our society seems to be heading--the vicarious experiences of 'reality shows', which aren't really real, and how far things can go and people will accept it--like a 'survivor show' where the goal is true survival and not death.

I guess I'm just enough of an optimist (tho I often consider myself a pessimist) to want books to have a hopeful ending.  And as a Christian, I do have a hope of being in a better place after this life.  (Sometimes, tho, even I wonder if this isn't just 'pie in the sky.')  It's a fine line at times, between faith and realism.  That is the challenge for a writer, too.

It's amazing and coincidental that two medical practitioners in the past 2 months have expressed the same kinds of thoughts--both in reference to 'A Game of Thrones' (which I've read all of them, by the way)--another story that pushes deep into the realism side, and never seems to get to an ending, let alone a happy one.

I am so glad that the 'Harry Potter' books ended well, for the sake of the millions of young people who read them.  The 'Twilight' series, too.  In fact, there were actually some good moral truths in these--like saving sex for marriage, laying down your life for your friends--and in Harry's case, even learning to love your enemy.  These books left the reader feeling hopeful--not hopeless.

But that generation of readers is growing up now, and I wonder what the next generation will get.  Hopefully more that just 'Game of Thrones'--even tho it is well written.  But it seems to have no hope.

If we lose hope, we're in big trouble, I think.  So that's why I give my books the endings that I do.  I believe good literature should provide a catharsis (the release of emotions and empathy--a 'cleansing' is the Greek root of the word), and a good book should inspire--not depress.

I liked Carol Buchanan's book, "God's Thunderbolt" for that reason.  And that's why I loved "Lord of the Rings" & "The Hobbit"  Some of Tolkien's other books, especially "The Silmarilion", aren't so hopeful.  (It seems like a long defeat, in fact, but then he did get the idea in the trenches of WWI--and if you've seen the movie 'War Horse' it gives a vivid depicttion of how bad they were.)  I'm glad Middle Earth finally got to the Fourth Age, and he ended his books with hope.

My belief is that in the end, Good will eventually triumph over evil---and that's why the author I admire most is C.S. Lewis, who was a dear friend of Tolkien's by the way. Most people know him for Narnia.  But my favorite of his writings are his Space Trilogy.