Of Endings and Closures
Of Endings and Closures
When reading a novel, some cannot avoid but get carried away by the emotions and experiences of the characters. Some novelists are very good not only at capturing interest of their readers but also getting them involved in the turn of events. Through the dialogues, the characters, and the plot, the readers are compelled to think, feel, and even dream. With vivid imagination, readers can feel like they are active participants to the story. Taking this into consideration, authors should consider what the readers would feel upon reading a story.
Although the beginning of the story is one very important part of the plot, the ending is more important for it concludes and seals in every knot, each loose end presented throughout the story. It decides what will happen to the characters, and suggests to the readers how they should think or react to the situation or feelings presented. They compel the readers to continue the thought implied at the end, or to imagine the scenes come true in reality. This way the story’s ending is very important. Without it the story will not reach its finality. Designing a suitable ending is very important.
Based on the thoughts and experiences of the characters, the ending should provide a finality to make the work complete. It should provide conclusion to the themes of the story, and tie every loose end so as not to leave the audience hanging. Although some stories are open-ended, where readers are asked to decide what happens next, these stories still suggest a specific ending considering the events that proceeded. The point is, as the reader closes the book, they should be left with a thought to provoke other thoughts that they could apply in their own experiences. A story’s ending does not always have to be happy.
There are endings that are meant to be sad especially if this is where the main character is led throughout the story. In learning about point of view, we see how the story’s angle of narration connects with the ending. Based on this, a story with the omniscient angle is likely to have a happy ending, where all characters will be settled in place, those who are good will be rewarded, while those who are bad will be punished. In contrast, a story presenting the psychological angle will likely constitute a sad ending or death of someone connected to the main character.
These two angles are the ones used in the novels of two great classical women writers, Jane Austen and Emily Bronte. Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey presents the omniscient angle, while Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights uses the psychological angle, being told by Lockwood, who makes a reflection on what is happening around him. In Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen employs the omniscient angle. Although the story is focused on Catherine as the main character, subplots are used to tell experiences, especially love affairs of other characters like Isabella, Eleanor, John, and James.
Told in the omniscient angle, the author provides a closure to every subplot, and finally leads to the major one, the conclusion for the major character’s journey. Noticeably, different sub-endings are employed in the story. The end of Isabella’s affair with James (Catherine’s brother) is not successful, neither is her relationship with Frederick. Similarly, the arrogant John Thorpe does not succeed in winning Catherine’s heart, while Eleanor (Henry’s sister) gets to marry a wealthy and prominent man, an ending somehow related to that of Catherine’s.
Told in the omniscient angle, the narrator seems to see everything happening among the characters. Although the focus is on the development in the life of the young woman, other events that intertwine are also told by the omniscient narrator. As such, the deeds and feelings of the characters are revealed in the story. If follows that those who are good-natured, those who does not fake affection like Catherine, Eleanor, and Henry are granted proper treatment in the story, with a proper ending for all of them.
In relation, those who do not do good, and feign affection are punished, such as Isabella and John. The omniscient angle affects the story or vice versa for it considers the effect on the readers. As mentioned, those who should be punished lose in the unraveling of events, and those who are good triumph. In contrast, Emily Bronte uses the psychological angle in her novel, Wuthering Heights. The story is told by Lockwood, who serves as a major participant in the story for he is the one giving account and reflecting on the major characters’ experiences.
Although he is not a major character in the plot involving Heathcliff and those who have died, he plays an important role in that the story of Heathcliff affects him directly, and makes him write his own point of view regarding other characters. As the major narrator who takes interest in his landlord’s story, he portrays Heathcliff with some psychological imbalance, giving his account a psychological treatment. The angle by which the story is told relates with the ending of the story.
Being told in the major character’s viewpoint, it gives account on what happens to the main character, Heathcliff, his affections, sufferings, emotional imbalance, etc. Through this angle we see how the death of Catherine Earnshaw affects Heathcliff, and how the anger inside him makes him fall into a tragic pit. Aside from point of view, the kind of characters present in the story affects the treatment and the ending. Both novels employ the concept of bildungsroman, thus providing the psychological, moral and intellectual development of the characters from the time they are young.
As such, in Austen’s Northanger Abbey, we see how the naive Catherine grows up to be a self-assured individual. As the character’s journey continues, she meets different people to help her gain new insights about life, and she matures more with the experiences she has. Although some events lead her to feel dismayed such as the feign feelings of Isabella towards her brother, and the arrogance of John, the encounters she has makes her a more mature person. Moreover, her encounters with the Linton and the captain’s hospitality of sending her back home contribute to her development, for these help her explore the world and find her place in it.
The positive development of Austen’s character normally leads to a positive ending. As the events unravel, the readers may expect a happy ending for the character. Although Henry’s proposal comes a little later than she wishes, it concludes the major character’s ultimate wish, and justifies the preparation Catherine undergoes in being a full-grown woman. The plot is designed in such a way that the character experiences all the necessary events in her life, including the waiting and rejection, for her to satisfy a more important role in the end, that is fulfilling her wish to be a family woman.
The same concept of bildungsroman is applied by Bronte in the character of Heathcliff. This starts with the adoption of Heathcliff by Mr. Earnshaw despite the strong disapproval of Hindley. In the story, we see that the weak boy turns into a strong and influential man when he grows up. However, unlike the protagonist of Austen, Heathcliff develops in a rather negative way. His hatred towards Hindley and Edgar Linton makes him bitter and this does not change until the end. Although there is development, it is negative, thus leading to the tragic ending of the said character.
There is a clear relevance between the negative development Heathcliff undergoes and the sad ending he encounters. Some readers who prefer a happy ending would still expect Heathcliff to change along the way, especially when he finally reunites with his son. However, it is only rational and more realistic that the former events lead to the tragic ending. The melancholy the character imposes on himself and others correspond to the ending that Bronte gives. The cruel and unforgiving personality Heathcliff projects reasonably leads to his bad fate.
We may say that this is more reasonable than make him reflect on everything he has done and have him repent at the end. Although having him repent for his sins would make the story more cathartic as what would be explained later, the ending by Bronte may have better relevance during the time the novel was written. The theme of misery is probably more appealing to the people during its milieu, that is why faith in God and religion is not emphasized in the story. Moreover, the novel’s themes of misery and revenge are two intertwined motifs. Heathcliff suffers misery because of his cruelty and wish for revenge.
He insists on having his way on everything, even if doing so would hurt the people around him. The misery he feels later leads him to insanity, as he talks to Catherine’s ghost on his own. It probably appealed more to the audience to have Heathcliff suffer at the end than have him repent and change his ways. The question of catharsis is another consideration in evaluating the ending of a story. Catharsis as Meriam Webster Online Dictionary defines (2008), “is a purification or purgation that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension. In employing catharsis, the author should use elements to balance the good and evil in the story. For instance, crime stories with criminals as the main characters should not just portray them as bad people, but also as good ones. One classic example is Robin Hood. In this tale we see that the protagonist steals from the rich to give the goods to the poor people. By making him champion the cause of the poor, the character is an example of a cathartic hero. Even though stealing from the rich is a crime, it is made positive and thus gains approval from those in the lower class.
This way, the story becomes cathartic. In Northanger Abbey, we see catharsis in the lives of the characters. First, we see the consequences in the life of Isabella. When she falls in love with James, she also remains as Catherine’s friend, but when she leaves James for Frederick, she loses her bestfriend and the man who loves her. Such fate of an unfaithful lover demonstrates the author’s way of achieving catharsis. It reveals that unfaithfulness will not lead to finding true love, and retribution will come later on.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 25 October 2016
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