Should Books Have Happy Endings?

I’ll finish with two, briefer examples, I think.

Firstly, Stephen King’s ‘11.22.63’. I’ll give a very short summary of the book. If you haven’t read it and plan to, I would skip this part, though I won’t be going in depth enough to spoil the plot if you’re still wanting to read this.

Jake Epping goes back in time to save J.F. Kennedy’s life, and succeeds. Whilst he’s there, he comes into a relationship with a Sadie Dunhill whom he loves with all his heart. In saving Kennedy, though, she is killed. Jake returns to the twenty-first century to find that in changing the past, the future has become apocalyptic and nigh uninhabitable. Jake knows that if he goes back again to the past, he will erase all the things he did in in his last visit. He’ll never have saved JFK, or met Sadie. Sadie would be alive again, not knowing who he was. Jake has to return though, and does so. Resisting the temptation to make contact with Sadie, he closes the circle by returning back to the present. He goes back to teaching his classes. When a student mentions a Jodie newspaper (Jodie being where he lived and met Sadie) he uses the internet to find out that an elderly Sadie Dunhill will be receiving a citizen of the century award. He attends the ceremony, and asks for her hand in a dance they used to do. He tells her his name, and she recognises it, but knows not who he is. They dance, just as they used to, in tune, and she asks him who he is. “Someone you knew in another life” he says.

And that’s the ending there. Whilst the woman he loves never knows who he is, in the end, he still gets to meet her again, and has a last dance. And through echoes in time she recognises a part of him. Spoilers end, don’t read that paragraph.

That also, is an ending I liked very much. It was not wholly sad, but tinged with forlornity and loss.


Finally, Harry Potter. I expect the majority of people who’re at all interested in the books know the ending, so I will talk of that too.

Harry Potter as a series has a happy ending. There’s no doubt about that, for me. And that might raise my question ‘after all Harry’s been through, how can it all just work out?’. I think, though, that this can be explained. The troubles that Harry went through were the providence of Lord Voldemort’s influence on Harry’s life. Harry’s scar would hurt due to his connection with Voldemort and Voldemort’s feelings. Harry makes a sacrifice, the greatest sacrifice, in order to let others enjoy a free world. Just as Frodo says, one must give it up so that others may keep it. Harry does just that, he willingly tries to give it all up for others. Yet when Voldemort kills Harry, what he destroys is not the part of Harry that is Harry, but the part of Harry that is in fact a portion of Voldemort’s soul – for Harry is the seventh horcrux.
Harry then has another choice to make – to ‘go on’ and accept death. Metaphorically, Dumbledore says he can ‘board a train’ for his mind has taken him to King’s Cross station. Alternately, Harry can go back to the living world and carry on the fight, continue to take pain in the struggle against Voldemort. Again, Harry sacrifices his own chance at peace so as he can help others.

After Voldemort is defeated, we are given an insight into Harry’s life ’19 years later’ as he takes his own children to Platform 9^3/4, Kings Cross. We are told that ‘Harry’s scar had not hurt for 19 years. All was well.’ This, to me, is a happy ending, and a deserved one. Harry spends the whole of the series giving sacrifices, leading up to his greatest sacrifice and his greatest triumph. In this case, the guy gets the girl (Ginny Weasley, in the end) and Ron and Hermione too get together. For me, this works, though I did not enjoy this ending as being quite as clever as the previous too.

It worked with the plot though – for the Prophecy said ‘neither can live whilst the other survives’, so one of them had to end up dead, and the other survive, in essence. So, must a story have a happy ending? No. The ending should fit with the plot and be realistic for what that character has gone through.

Ta-da! Please, give me your thoughts and thank you so much, if you read through this all to the end. I doubt that many will.

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