The reward of reading a book is a happy ending – or at least a satisfactory one. You read hundreds of pages that follow the hero or heroine through challenges, setbacks and triumphs. Surely love and justice will win in the end. It’s a letdown when you find out the heroes do not meet with the happy ending they deserve. Readers long for closure and resolution. Here are some of the most unsatisfying endings in literature . . .
1. The Great Gatsby. The reader wants Daisy Buchanan to leave her brutish husband Tom and run away with Jay Gatsby. After all Daisy loves Jay and she is trapped in an unhappy marriage. In a tragic mix-up, the husband of Tom’s mistress thinks Gatsby was driving the car that killed his wife. He guns Gatsby down as the innocent Jay floats in his swimming pool.
2. Tess of the D’Urbervilles. After following Tess from childhood through the ups and downs of her life, she is finally reunited with Angel Clare, her husband and the only man she has ever loved. Okay, after Angel resurfaces Tess kills her rapist with a butter knife and runs away with Angel. But surely the court will let her off. Or not. Dear, sweet Tess is hanged, and Angel runs off with her sister.
3. Ethan Frome is the story of a good man. Mattie, his wife Zeena’s cousin, is a good woman. Even though Ethan and Mattie are deeply in love, they refrain from consummating their passion out of moral principles. Their only choice is to kill themselves. They board a sled and push off down a snow-covered hill and aim the sled for a tree. Boom! They hit the tree, but as a result of the accident Mattie is paralyzed and Ethan is crippled. Who takes care of Mattie? Ethan’s wife.
4. Billy Budd – what a guy! All the sailors on the ship love and admire him. The crew despises the cruel master-at-arms John Claggart who falsely accuses Billy of conspiracy to mutiny. Out of frustration Billy hits Claggart so hard it kills him. The crew and even the captain feel that Claggart had it coming, but Billy is hanged anyway.
5. Randle McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a charming anti-hero who gives new life to patients in a mental hospital. McMurphy helps patients regain confidence and purpose. The reader wants Nurse Ratched fired and McMurphy and others released from the mental ward. In the end McMurphy is given a lobotomy and is reduced to a vegetative state. Chief Bromden mercifully smothers McMurphy and escapes from the hospital.
6. The Last of the Mohicans is a long book that chronicles the early British settlers’ relationship with native tribes. Toward the end of the book 2,000 Huron warriors massacre British soldiers, women and children. It’s downhill all the way after the attack. By the end of the book favorite characters are kidnapped and killed, and the final pages describe their funerals.
7. Huckleberry Finn leads the reader on an exciting adventure. He stages his own murder and runs away from his abusive father. He and runaway slave Jim share pleasures and dangers as they float down the Mississippi. When they miss the turn north to the Ohio River due to fog, they find themselves heading south into slave states. Tom Sawyer finally shows up and rescues Huck and Jim is freed. The reader thinks Huck will return to Missouri, go to school and have a good life. But nooooo! Huck rejects a civilized life and runs away again – this time to the Oklahoma Territory.
8. A Farewell to Arms immerses the reader in the unpredictable events of World War I. The hero Frederic finds love with Catherine, a nurse in Milan. After deserting, risking capture and execution, Frederic finds Catherine and they escape in a rowboat to Switzerland. Catherine becomes pregnant. Happiness is on the horizon, but nooo! Catherine dies giving birth to a stillborn baby boy. Frederic walks away in the rain.
9. All the King’s Men chronicles the rise of Willie Stark from good ole boy in the South to a crooked politician. But no way does the good ole boy deserve to die from assassination on the state senate floor by the irate brother of Willie’s mistress.
10. Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter really deserves a happy ending. She has suffered imprisonment and public humiliation for giving birth to a child in her husband’s long absence. Hester refuses to disclose the name of the child’s father. Her plan to run away to England with Reverend Dimmesdale, the father of her little girl, is within reach. They almost make it, but Dimmesdale dies hours before they are scheduled to board the ship.
The trailer for the new movie version of the book by Madeline L’Engle is on YouTube. The film opens March 9, 2018 and boasts an all-star cast including Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Zach Galifianakis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mindy Kaling, and Oprah Winfrey.
April 23rd will be the bard’s birthday.
Harold Bloom, Yale University professor and Shakespeare scholar, observes that Shakespeare’s writing marks the beginning of the modern era and our idea of what it means to be human. Shakespeare explored human fears, virtues and flaws, giving each character a psychological profile and inventing complex relationships that still spark debate. Did Lady Macbeth force her husband to murder by questioning his manly courage? Or would Macbeth have killed the king anyway without his wife’s taunts?
If you once had to memorize a Shakespeare passage, try to recite it again. Chances are you will discover fragments of Shakespeare’s verse in the cobwebs of your mind. If you never had to learn a passage by heart, try memorizing a few lines. Here are some short quotes worth committing to memory:
“Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant only taste of death but once.” (Julius Caesar, Act II, scene ii, line 32)
“For stony limits cannot hold love out.” (Romeo and Juliet, Act II, scene ii, line 67)
“The quality of mercy is not strain’d. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven. (The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, scene i, line 184)
“All the world’s a stage, and men and women merely players.” (As You Like It, Act II, scene vii, line 139)
“To be, or not to be: that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or take arms against a sea of troubles . . .
(Hamlet, Act III, scene i, line 55)
“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. (Macbeth, Act V, scene v, line 19)
“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep. (The Tempest, Act IV, scene i, line 156)
Why is the mockingbird a big deal in To Kill a Mockingbird? Atticus Finch tells his kids not to kill a mockingbird because it’s an innocent songbird. In the novel the bird symbolizes the innocence of Tom Robinson and Boo Radley. That’s not all. Charles Darwin discovered that mockingbirds in the Galapagos Islands differed from island to island and the mainland.
A year after his voyage on the HMS Beagle in 1835, Darwin was puzzled by his notes on mockingbirds. Scientific doctrine said that species were immutable, unchangeable. BINGO! The different species of mockingbirds proved that species did evolve. The mockingbird metaphor in Harper Lee’s novel is not only a symbol of innocence, but also evolution. Racists, bigots and cultures can change. Thanks, Darwin.
I blog about movies – specifically the movie version of a book. There are hundreds of bloggers, magazines, TV shows, critics, and websites talking about the differences between the movie and the book. Sure, I’d love to write a review of the film, but the competition is too steep and I can’t compete. How do I get noticed? I separate from the herd. I try to set myself apart from other bloggers. Here are 6 steps you can take to write a blog that will attract readers:
1. Find a Niche. Focus on a narrow aspect of the subject that nobody else is talking about. In my case I zeroed in on the difference between a book and the movie version of the book. Within that narrow subject I can still talk about other films, actors, directors, box office success, special effects, and everything else that has to do with movies and movie making.
2. Original Point of View. Sorting out bloggers who are a waste of time from those who are perceptive and informative doesn’t take long. Once you discover who the best bloggers are, you go to them directly. Readers want to learn and gain insight from your observations. Give them an original point of view and they will come back for more.
3. Get Organized. The secret to writing once or twice a week is having an inspiration system. Don’t just sit down and write off the top of your head. Readers immediately detect fluff, BS, and old news. For ideas I keep files beside my computer. In those files are notes I’ve made, lists of ideas for blogs, big fat folders full of magazine and newspaper clippings, and articles I’ve found online. You can also keep an inspiration file folder on your computer. If I am burned out or have writer’s block, I go to the files. They haven’t failed me yet. A valuable tip is to always note the date of the clipping and the source. I also write a note on the clipping so I will know at a glance what it’s about.
4. The Title is Your Bait. You are up against the Google algorithm that will sort your blog by key words in the title. With that in mind, come up with a title that people will be searching for.
5. Key Words. You’ve got to feed the Google crawler in the first paragraph. Sprinkle a few key words – not EVERY key word – in the first few sentences. The Google algorithm is a mathematical formula that operates like a machine. You’ve got to give it what it’s programmed to look for.
6. Assume Authority. Use the first paragraph to assert your point of view on a subject. Readers are looking for affirmation of their own thoughts and feelings and assurance that you know what you are talking about. Put your experience and knowledge out there from the start. I’m not suggesting that you name-drop, list awards you’ve won or brag on your job or what college you went to. Just gently establish yourself as someone who knows the subject at hand by the way you speak about it. Tone is everything. Don’t mention other websites or sources in the first paragraph. Save citations and quotes for body paragraphs. Otherwise, the Google crawler will recognize a source that is higher on page ranking and count it toward the source’s website instead of your blog.
Don’t be timid about stating opinions. That’s what your audience is looking for!