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Happy endings

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How to spice up some famous literary endings. Ben Macintyre has a few suggestions in The Times.

To cuddle a mockingbird

And since we are making unhappy endings cheerier, for the gloomy 2 per cent there are ways of rendering happy endings a little darker, starting with Jane Eyre: The original “My Edward and I, then, are happy” needs another clause “. . . or we would be, if that bloody Bertha hadn’t found the fire escape.”

Pride and Prejudice could be rendered less saccharine by introducing the scene where Darcy explains to Elizabeth that it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune still in want of a wife is obviously gay, so he is moving to Tangiers to live with Wickham.

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Great topic.

I've always loved the attitude of the character played by Mellina Mercouri in the film "Never on Sunday." She's a free-spirit prostitute from Piraeas, with a heart of gold. One of her passions is classical Greek theater. Returning from a performance of "Medea," she tells the astonished American protagonist of the film, that Medea -- far from killing her own children at the end of the play -- takes them to the beach. "They all went to the seaside."

I think of this often when depressed by unhappy endings in great literature. "They all went to the seaside." I suppose you might say something similar of Odette and Siegfried: "They went for a lovely swim in the lake."

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I guess I don't have much to add to this discussion except to talk about a novel where there were actually two written endings: Great Expectations.

In the first ending, Pip runs into Estella some years after their last parting. He knows her life has been miserable. They share a few words, and then part again.

In the second ending, they meet at Miss Havisham's old house. Both have learned a lot from life. These two characters embark on a new life together.

I must say, I don't know which ending to prefer. The first one feels more true to life. We talk about things like closure and all that, but the truth is it's rare to get "closure" on any relationship. People come and go without a truly satisfactory "ending." Love often goes unexpressed, hearts break, life goes on.

OTOH, the second ending feels more true to the story. Great Expectations has been about the maturity of Pip, and, to a lesser extent, of Estella. Pip's benefactor was Estella's father. Estella is the love of Pip's life. It feels natural that at the end of the novel, these two characters would start a life together.

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Another example would be Shaw's Pygmalion. Shaw in an afterwards pointed out the improbability of Henry and Eliza marrying. According to Shaw, she marries Freddy, and her flower shop is not a success either. However, audiences have always felt differently, and with good reason. The whole play has been about the relationship between Higgins and Eliza -- how Eliza grows into a smart, strong-willed young woman by the end of a play. "Fit for a king," as Henry says. For the 1939 movie adaptation, Shaw grudgingly supplied a "happy ending." My Fair Lady of course follows that ending. But as much as Shaw points out the impracticality of a Higgins/Eliza match, emotionally it's very believable. It's clear by the end of the play that if Higgins isn't overtly in love with Eliza, he has developed feelings for her. And Eliza's developed feelings for him. Shaw was wrong -- Higgins and Eliza *do* belong together. It's not mere romantic nonsense to feel that way. The relationship between Higgins and Eliza is the heart of the story. The ending Shaw supplied was ambiguous. Shaw shouldn't have written that epilogue.

As for Rhett and Scarlett, I've always known in my heart that they'll get back together. They are soulmates. It's too bad it took Scarlett 12 years to figure that out, but I have always been certain that they belong together and eventually Scarlett will win him back.

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"As for Rhett and Scarlett, I've always known in my heart that they'll get back together. They are soulmates. It's too bad it took Scarlett 12 years to figure that out, but I have always been certain that they belong together and eventually Scarlett will win him back."

I totally agree :)

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I was furious when that "sequel" came out for GWTW. It sickened me, the soap-operaish way Scarlett and Rhett got back together. I always imagined something quite different. IMO, Rhett at the end of the novel is just battered from years of being hurt by Scarlett's foolish infatuation over Ashley. But they belong together. Scarlett will prove to Rhett how much she loves him, and Rhett will realize that they belong together, and they'll live happily ever after :)

By the way, Rhett Butler is one of my favorite all-time literary characters. He's tough on the outside, but he's tender and loving on the inside, and he has a great sense of humor. I practically want to strangle Scarlett in both the book and the movie, because Rhett does everything possible at every situation to show how much he cares about her, and she's just oblivious. Scarlett! Men like that don't grow on trees!

And slightly off-topic: what do you think about the ending to Cosi fan tutte? I've never believed that in the end the original couples just get back together. I think Mozart and da Ponte deliberately made the ending ambiguous. It's clear that the "test" opened a can of worms that can't be closed again. That;s just my take.

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