The Bittersweet Ending

Posted on 14 October 2012

So, I’ve been noticing lately that I have a penchant for loving the bittersweet ending. Not just in my own writing (hey, I’ve had one or two happy endings!), but in what I take in as well. What is it about the bittersweet that has so enamored me, and if I may be so bold, people in general?


Perhaps we like that little last punch of reality. The “and life goes on, not good or bad, but just on” feeling that bittersweet gives us. From the razing of the Shire and Frodo’s obvious PTSD to Ender’s role as Speaker for the Dead in Ender’s Game. I also have to wonder if it is both an attempt by the reader and the writer both to make the world live on past the ending. I definitely know that stories with bittersweet endings make me long to read more about the world, to pine for the end of the story, far more than any happy ending ever has. Even if the happy ending doesn’t wrap up every little plot thread, it lets us end on a high and jump back into the real world, where the bittersweet ending takes a part of us and leaves it in the story.

I also have to wonder if part of it has to do with the emotional impact. A book can probably make us happy just as easily as it can make us sad, but the nature of the human condition is that we remember negative feelings so much more sharply than positive ones. So if the book goes out with that little cutting bit of sadness, we remember the book as one that deeply effected us, even if it might have actually inspired less sadness in relation to another book that gave us great joy.

Not really sure where I’m going with this, but just trying to get into the habit of rambling a bit more often (such as my website implies I do). Anyone have some thoughts?


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