Happily Ever After?

Perhaps the only thing in fiction more appealing than a hopeless, dystopian disaster is a happy ending. The kind of ending that wraps up all the loose ends and satisfies even the most obsessive of readers. Last week I pondered the appeal of apocalyptic dystopia; today it’s time to take a hard look at ‘happily ever after’ and why it never seems to grow old.

Admit it, you feel good when a Jane Austen novel ends with a wedding. Through the trials and tribulations, knowing that the young lady protagonists will find love, satisfy their parents’ ambitions, and fulfill their society’s destiny in one grand finale rings true. In real life happily ever after might not last through the honeymoon—let alone the honeymoon phase of the relationship—so our desire for the happy conclusions that fiction offers is extra sweet. Still, I’m flummoxed by the HUGE gap between the happily ever after ending and the doom & gloom of disaster. It feels like we, as readers and consumers of fiction, want our books, movies & TV shows to rocket us from one extreme to the other.

Is a hint of disaster in the pretty picture too threatening?

Is a glimmer of happiness too disturbing in the midst of an apocalypse?

I don’t think so, but I’m curious about how & why we want to read stories that are positioned on one end or the other of the continuum. Is it because real life is always closer to the dull center?

Thoughts? Ideas? Please share them here.

In real life, I try to celebrate endings—like this final day of a trip to Berlin a few years ago.

In real life, I try to celebrate endings—like this final day of a trip to Berlin a few years ago.


  1. Hmm…I’m in a bit of a bind here because I don’t particularly enjoy either the dystopian or happy ever after type of ending. I like to be challenged, and I like my reading to be ‘resolved’, but that could mean the end of, say, a relationship, not the beginning of happily ever after. 🙁

    • Candy Korman

      Your genre, science fiction, is known for hovering in that wonderful uncertainty! Of course, you prefer that over the extremes. I’m honestly hunting for the reasons people crave both ends of the spectrum. It’s a mystery. (LOL…my genre)

  2. I love dystopian, but I cannot really comment on happy ever after stories. They just do not appeal to me. I believe I am so intrigued by dystopian novels because of all the elements I can find that are so different from how our life is today. As well as the tiny parts that we have in common. Maybe that is just me. But, that is where most of my interest comes from.

    • Candy Korman

      Many of us, including me, travel while reading. You are drawn to the dark places of dystopia, just as other travelers are drawn to bright shiny places of happily ever after. I think your travel plans——to places that are different from your own life——are perfect. That’s how I travel for real AND in what I chose to read.

  3. I think you’re onto to something. Real life is indeed close to that dull center, and who wants a dull ending? I like happy endings too, but am far more drawn to stories with endings on the other side of the scale. I hate books that just sort of stop.

    • Candy Korman

      Those non-endings are terrible! More disappointing than a happily ever after OR doom & gloom. I think readers like beginnings, middles & ends, and that storytellers of all kinds, genres and media, should remember the story arc. No worthwhile arc ends without an ENDING.