Monday, June 14, 2010

Happily Ever After?

One of the criticisms of popular fiction in general and romance fiction in particular, is the guaranteed happy ending.  Critics claim it isn't realistic. In real life, not everyone gets a happy ending.

Sadly, it is true.  Not everyone has a picture perfect happily ever in their lives.  But rather than being unrealistic, I'd say "happily ever after" is idealistic.  We are all striving for our own happy endings.  We don't need to be reminded of the possible horrible endings many aspects of our lives - not just the romantic ones - could have.  But we want to visualize and concentrate on that one, best possible ending for ourselves and our families. That's where romance novels and their guaranteed happy endings come in.  As readers, one of the things we may be looking for in a novel is a sense of hope for the future - our own future as well as the fictional one of a book's characters.

So what does a happily ever after look like?  Is every problem the main characters ever had solved?  Does their every worry and care disappear?  No.  But in romance novels, the hero and heroine have formed or renewed a partnership by the end of the story.  They are facing the good and the bad of life together.  Compromise may have been involved, but never compromise of principle or value. They've made a commitment, based on love and respect and trust.  That's a happy ending that is possible.

What does your "happily ever after" look like?


Maribeth said...

I'm older now and can appreciate the Romance Novel more. Now that I realize the characters aren't really perfect and they know it. "Happily ever after" now means that they solved this conflict and will be able to face the next.

Giggles and Guns

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Kara,

I just read a criticism of HEA (happily ever after endings) on the Amazon romance discussion board. I didn't bother to comment. I have a different take. If I want to be depressed, I just have read the newspaper or turn on the TV news or radio. One reason I'm not wild about so-called straight literary novels is that the authors seem to feel compelled to create tragic endings. They are afraid perhaps that they won't be considered serious authors if they don't write Shakespearean tragedy.

Well, I love romances of many kinds. And yes, I do appreciate a happy ending. I want to feel enriched when I finish a novel and not diminished or miserable. As an adult, I read for enjoyment. Therefore, I would rather read Jane Austen than Dostoyevsky--and I know both very well.

When I read a novel and commit to the protagonists--hero and heroine--I want things to work out for them. I want their relationship to matter and be meaningful. We all need more romance in life as well as in fiction!

Terry Odell said...

Anyone who picks up a novel and expects it to be 'real life' ... well, I don't know if those people really exist. I read mystery to see a crime solved, and romance for that connection between 2 characters. It's nice to know they'll catch the bad guy in the first genre, and fall in love in the second. Just like there are a lot of unsolved crimes, and bad guys running loose, there are a lot of people who don't have that 'perfect' ending.
But we can read about it. Escape is good.

Kara Lynn Russell said...

Thanks for the supporting views! Maribeth, it's true that overcoming one conflict and finding the strength to face the inevitable next conflict really is a happy ending. Jacqueline, I definitely agree. We are bombarded by depressing situations and negative outcomes on a daily basis. We need a little help in envisioning the positive. And yes, Terry, escape is good!

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Kara Lyn: What an interesting blog post! A lot of my reading is for research, so when I read a book just for enjoyment, I do want a satisfactory ending, where issues are resolved, even if Anne Boleyn loses her head. Seriously, though, I think it's human nature to hope that all ends well. BTW, love the cover of The Prodigal Father.