I’ve heard it said that happy endings aren’t true to life and set unrealistic expectations for the reader, thus, stories that utilize them are regressive and serve no purpose in helping the reader grow in critical thought or mental knowledge. That the stories that result in progress and growth for the reader are the ones that unpack and dive in deeper into a post-modern worldview. And any story that offers hope, joy, and satisfaction is trapped in an outdated mindset that a story should have a point and purpose. That a story should reward the reader and bring them comfort and reassurance.
Well, I’m here to say that happy endings have a purpose and a place, despite what might be considered critically acceptable. And here are a few reasons why:
It’s a Great Way to Break-Up: The ending of a story is like the ending of a committed relationship. You as the author have spent time wooing your reader, enticing them to become invested in your story, your plot, your characters. And now, as the book draws to a close, you want to leave your reader with a positive taste in their mouth. Break-ups are tough, and from a bookish perspective, a book ending break-up can go in several different directions. But choosing to provide a happy ending can leave your reader feeling grateful for the time they spent with your story, and that even though it’s over, at least the ending will leave them with plenty of positive memories to hold onto.
Happy Endings Build Trust: A happy ending can quickly establish a loyal fanbase of readers. Just as much as a tragic or shock-value author can gain a loyal fanbase from their depressing or stunning endings, an author who consistently provides a happy ending can often-times be a great source of comfort to a reader. And, in choosing to consistently give your novels happy endings, you’re also giving those readers the reassurance that they can trust your novels in the future to always give them an ending to look forward to.
Happiness Endures: In my experience, a good portion of readers are more likely to reread a novel with a happy, satisfying ending compared to a thought-provoking read or even a critically acclaimed novel, because a happy ending is both easier to digest and generates a longer lasting sense of peace. A good number of beloved series and novels have endured alongside many great critical works because of their happy endings. These books might not be critical darlings, but to their loyal fans and readers, they are stories those readers will cherish for a lifetime.
What are some of your thoughts on happy endings? Do you love them? Hate them? And, looking over the books you reread the most, are you more drawn to stories with happier endings, or more gritty, shocking, or tragic endings?