It doesn't end well (but there's hope)

Saturday, December 02, 2017
I'm going to preface this post by disclosing the fact that I've been to four weddings this year, including my daughter's. All were lovely. The last one took place at a large church not too far from my house, and the sign announcing the week's sermon read "The beginning of the end."

T. S. Eliot wrote "our beginnings never know our ends." Although true, the sign made me think about the two young people beginning their lives together. So does that mean the beginning of the end of freedom, or the beginning of the end of solitude and loneliness? Honestly, there is probably some of both.

Because we already know how it ends for all of us in the real world, should we care how a book or movie ends? Why is the "Happily ever after" ending so pervasive? I tried to think of books and movies that have a pessimistic ending, and George Orwell's classic 1984 popped up. Winston met a dark end, and submits.

He loved Big Brother.

But most offer a more complex mixture of emotions. One of my favorite books, The Ballad of Pinewood Lake by Jory Sherman, has a dreary ending, but in the last three short sentences, offers a glimmer of hope.

I was afraid of drowning,
But I drowned anyway.
We get what we want, all right, but we get what we fear, too.
I learned that much. And something else, too.
Don't be afraid. Of anything.

Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms also features an ending that can be interpreted with a bit of hope. In literature, rain can represent a washing away of the the past, and within the sadness of loss lies the smallest hint of a new future, a fresh start.

After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.

Movies about the worst events in history can end on a hopeful note, including Schindler's List. And although the world is not portrayed as a happy place, dystopian novels may end with someone walking through a devastated landscape. And that one person equals life, and life means hope.

As we prepare for year's end, we may be resigned to the fact that we didn't accomplish all our goals, and people we love may not be with us anymore. But at the end of this year lies another. So we begin again. Maybe that's why we like our books and movies sprinkled with a little bit of hope on top of the pessimism. Because we also begin again.

Mary Horner's short story, Shirley and the apricot tree, was recently published in Kansas City Voices. She teaches communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Mary--I happen to like dreary novels without the dollop of optimism. But I'm weird that way.

I enjoyed how you connected endings of books with things going on in our lives. Yes, a new year is almost upon us. New goals, forgiveness for the old ones that were never met.

I hope you had wonderful Thanksgiving, Mary.

Mary Horner said...

Thanks Sioux, I hope you also had a nice Thanksgiving break. The end of the year was what got me thinking about endings, so I guess, once again, that it's another example of the interconnectedness of all things!

Angela Mackintosh said...

This is a gorgeous post, Mary! I love how you start with weddings and move to books and then tie is all in to the end of the year. Deliciously clever! This is one of my favorite posts from you and reads like an essay. It makes me want to end the year strong, or stronger...I accomplished more than I set out to this year and I'm really looking forward to beginning again.

Mary Horner said...

Thank you Angela. I guess as long as we are alive there can always be a new beginning. I appreciate your kind words, which gives me hope!

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