Rise of the Unhappy Ending

*It’s possible that I’m going to write some spoilers in here, so consider yourself warned.*

L9780060850524ast year, I wrote about my favorite Banned Book (Brave New World by Aldous Huxley), and with the rise of dystopian literature’s recent popularity, I’ve been thinking. Are we so jaded as a culture that we’ve come to embrace unhappy endings?

In the times when they were written, 1984 and Brave New World served as cautionary tales, warning their readers of possible futures if society simply carried on as it was. Unfortunately, many of the warnings proved prophetic (Big Brother is Watching), so they obviously fell on dear ears.

But today, we seem to revel in unhappiness. The Hunger Games trilogy is fraught with violence, cruelty, authoritarian regimes, and arguably sad endings. Game of Thrones is popular as both a book series and a television show, each seeming more cruel than the other. But these are not warnings. These are entertainment.

It is strange that our modern world is as messed up as it has ever been and we seek to escape it with equally violent options.

But maybe there is a good reason for us to do so. Maybe we seek entertainment that mirrors our messed up situations because we want to see how strong characters deal with impossible odds. When things go badly–and we are sure that they must–we need assurance that in spite of the loss of everything we hoped to save, there is hope.

Katniss lives. Even with kings dying left and right, the Game of Thrones continues to be played. Perhaps these books are banned because of the bad things they contain, but we should read them anyway for the hope that they offer.


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