Happy endings (or not)
I like it when books and movies aren’t necessarily tied up neatly with a satin bow at the end; I like when there are a few question marks unanswered, and the finish leaves you with a little room for wonder and conjecture. In other words, me ‘n’ chick flicks do not get along. However, I don’t like tragedies, either, where everything is unrelentingly bleak, everybody dies, relationships are broken and left unmended.
Earlier this year, Martin and I watched, in three weekly installments, Tess of the D’Urbervilles on PBS’ Mastperpiece Theater. (Note — spoilers, sort of, ahead.) I started out thinking that it was Dickensian, with everyone’s lot in life apparently sad and destined for disaster, but with hope, redemption, justice, and a rich uncle glimmering around the corner. I kept waiting for it… waiting for it… Nope. No one was redeemed. The inheritance never showed up. The plights of all were destined for disaster. I recall watching it, wholly unacquainted with the story and realizing only at about 90% of the way through it, that there was no way that the story was going to be pulled out of the hole that Thomas Hardy had dug. Martin and I both felt totally slimed at the serial’s end, and we turned to each other and said in unison, “Well that sucks,” as the credits rolled.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me what kind of social commentary Hardy was attempting, or even accomplishing. I felt as manipulated by his pessimistic literary devices as I do when watching an unrelentingly, unrealistically sappy and happy chick flick.
After being totally delighted by all of Jane Austen’s works last year, I decided to work my way through the Brontë sisters’ books. It’s been much more hit-or-miss. Villette — unsatisfying and a tad creepy (but, hey, there’s a free e-book download, here!). Jane Eyre — beautiful and satisfying, perfect in many ways, though the plethora of fortunate, plot-advancing coincidences maddened me.
Now, I’m reading Wuthering Heights. I’m about 40% of the way through it, and it’s starting to smack of Tess.
At the wonderful book club I’m a part of (wonderful because of the ladies involved — enough alike to thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, yet dissimilar enough to have rousing discussion, unique perspectives, and disagreement), we discussed Jane Eyre last Saturday, and my friend Erin was “outed” by our friend Allison as someone who reads the end of the book first. I was shocked. 😀 Though I understand her reasoning — she would rather enjoy a more leisurely and thorough reading of the book, than fly through it just to see how the story is resolved — I don’t think I have ever, ever done that. Seems book-sacreligious or something.
Oddly enough, though, Emily Brontë included a family tree (of the characters) at the beginning of the Wuthering Heights, revealing many of the shockers on the outset. But… I am, again, wholly unacquainted with the story itself, and I have found myself referring continually to that family tree, thinking, “He marries her??? How does that come to be??? She dies when??? Tragic. Oh, look, her death coincides with the birthdate of her daughter. She dies in birth. Oh…”
So, in a way, it’s like reading the last few chapters. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself, trying to convince myself it wouldn’t be so bad to read the last few pages of the book, because I don’t want to invest myself in it and have the story turn out to be a tragedy. And, Emily Brontë already told us a good 90% of the story, there on the first page!
However, if you’ve read it, don’t tell me the outcome.
I probably won’t skip ahead. I’m going to be really upset, though, if it’s all pessimistic at the end.