Day of Debate: Tragic Endings

Day of Debate

This is a feature my brother came up with— wherein we tackle certain topics on books, young adult or not, and give you guys the low down on our opinions of them (which, mind you, generally differ). I’ll be encoding our conversation, and if you guys have any opinions of your own on the topic, or on the heated discussion, feel free to once again make my day and comment!

My brother is seventeen, a college sophomore, approximately one year and two days older. His name is Juan (that’s pronounced like the number, one), and he’s my best friend. No matter what anyone else says.

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Jasmine: Welcome to the weekly installment of Day of Debate!

Juan: Well, hello there, ladies and gentlemen! Mostly ladies *wink wink nudge nudge*

Jasmine: You’re not going to get anywhere with that, let me just tell you now.

Juan: What? I was simply referencing the fact that your viewers are predominantly female. Let’s get on with the topic at hand, shall we?.

Jasmine: Hmm… Since this was your brilliant idea– you introduce it, this time.

Juan: Aight, I’m game. Well if you divert your attention to the title of this post, you’ll know that my sister and I have decided to discuss tragic endings. And yes, we love to argue when it comes to cessation. If you’re not a religious follower of this blog (as you should be!) then I urge you to click on this link right here to find out what I’m talking about. So essentially, tragic endings are swan songs of sorts that involve brutal, merciless deaths of beloved characters, or inescapable breakups to your one true pairs. In general, it’s a conclusion that makes you want to bawl your eyes out of their sockets, crawl into a miserable hole, and die a slow, painful death (I’m obviously exaggerating. They depress you, in short). And for all intents and purposes, bittersweet endings, which rest somehow on neutral territory, are encompassed in this discussion. So ‘lil sis, Yay or Nay?

Jasmine: Oh hell to the no!

Juan: Alrighty then! Obviously enough, I take the Yay side. Why, you ask? Because I’m a miserable bastard. I love putting characters in morbid, disconsolate situations, and love seeing how they react. Yeah, you know my type. I enjoy observing the coping mechanisms of various characters– are they gonna go mad? Are they gonna take it in stride? Are they gonna jump of a cliff? Are they gonna live the rest of their lives in doldrums, woebegone and heavy-hearted? I’m into vivid, melodramatic stuff like that. Something like Titanic.

Jasmine: But I loved Titanic…

Juan: Fine, let me give you a manly example. In William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet–

Jasmine:  I really like your definition of manly.

Juan: FINE! Let’s see… In Edith Hamilton’s retelling of the adventures of Orpheus (because recently, YA has been way too light and fluffy), our hero is depressed because the love of his life, Eurydice, recently died and as such, is stuck in Hades. So he goes through literal hell to retrieve her, and he does, for a time. However, he gives in to temptation and looks back at his wife even if he’s not allowed to, thus sending his wife reeling back into the Underworld, never to be seen again. This however, is not before his head gets severed by a vicious, reprehensible animal who swoops down for the kill, leaving the rest of him in bloody bits and pieces.  Amazing right?

Jasmine: That’s horrible!

Juan: Just think about it. I keep going back to the same reasoning when it comes to tragedy, but would Orpheus’ tale be so greatly remembered if it culminated with him frolicking blithely with his wife through an endless field of hyacinths and sunflowers forever after? No. I understand that many people believe in happy endings. But if you give it a second thought, they’ve become too common. Authors are afraid to take a risk– nevertheless, the best of them are able to make use of tragic endings, and still make it look good. If the losses and deaths are justifiable, and don’t seem like cheap tricks to get the reader’s attention, what’s not to like? It’s perfectly logical after all. It adds flair to the story. And that’s the way the world works anyway. We don’t have to sugarcoat everything– not all of us deserve salvation, and not all of us get it.

Jasmine: Well that was profound.

Juan: Is this a book blog, or is this philosophy class?

Jasmine: A half and half. But before that, let me defend my immediate aversion to tragedy– I’ll take it from a YA point of view. I’m against purely tragic endings, but bittersweet endings work for me. The Fault In Our Stars is a book not necessarily tragic so much as it is bittersweet. But the reason why I felt that the ending was so effective was because Hazel was able to find hope in the midst of the woe and adversity. It was a happy ending, to an extent. I think that’s the only real way one can justify a tragedy– if something good is begotten. Otherwise, it seems pointless. It’s not enough for a book simply to be exciting or memorable. I get that not everyone is given a happy ending, but as a reader, I feel like it’s something I deserve for patiently waiting out a book or series.  A book doesn’t have to be all smiles and picture perfect futures– as long as there’s a sweet to the bitter, all is well.

Juan: I’m not against purely happy, or bittersweet, but I’m not against purely tragic either. Basically, I’m not against many types of endings– I’m only against them if they’re ass pulls.

Jasmine: Please enlighten me with definitions to your shocking vocabulary.

Juan: Well, ass pulls occur when characters come up with abnormally convenient solutions to their problems, or when they channel their inner gods and come up with ridiculous powers to save humanity in the nick of time. So, new conclusion for this argument: I hate ass pull endings. If you’re gonna make it tragic, stick with it. No need to happify everything, and not give us a proper, well-deserved explanation for it.

Jasmine: Okayyy now that I think about, ass pull endings do sound sucky, if they’re way too abrupt. I get the appeal of tragic endings to some, because they’re standout and extraordinary, and all that, but apart from the fact that they’re doozie and cause major hangovers (which may be a good thing), they don’t offer much else. I’d rather just go through the entire, painstaking process of rescuing the world from destruction or finding redemption for oneself, and watch the characters claim reward for their blood, sweat and tears with happy endings. That is my idea of perfectly logical. I’m not against tragic endings with minimal compromise– as long as there’s something, I ain’t complaining.

Juan: Ain’t complaining either. Your definition of tragic is just hard to get around.

Jasmine: Why is it always my fault? :C

Juan: Because the alternative is that it’s my fault. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Jasmine: You make sense, but you don’t make sense.

Juan: That made no sense. Juan out.

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So what do you think?  Have any suggestions? Criticisms of the constructive variety? Life changing praise?  Comment if you do! 😀

P.S. We’d appreciate suggestions on future topics! And forgive us if this has been our laziest entry yet. It’s midterms, and both our brains have melted into sorry pools of mush. But stick around next time for a (hopefully!) better installment *wink wink nudge nudge*

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15 thoughts on “Day of Debate: Tragic Endings

  1. The Fault in Our Stars was mentioned! Yes!

    As for tragic or happy endings, sometimes I couldn’t care less, and sometimes I could. If things have been leading to that tragic ending, then I’m okay with that. If it’s something like what you and your brother called “ass pulls” then I’m going to put my hand down and say no.

    And sometimes, if I hate the characters, I’m going to be mean and wish they don’t have a happy ending. Haha.

    • Aww yeah I loved the Fault In Our Stars! 😀 I never knew it was called an ass pull. HAHA! But yeah, nothing too convenient– that definitely ruins it for me. Oh, fortunately, I haven’t been hating on main characters lately. But if I did, I’d probably be with you and totally wish for their lives to become even more miserable. 😄

  2. Hmm, so I was thinking about Tragic Endings while browsing Bloglovin’ and then BAM, I found this post. Are you, or are you not, a mind reader, Jasmine? Ofcourse you are!

    Anyway, I do’t know where I stand here. I mean I know I don’t like cheesy happy endings where everything works out despite ridiculous odds. No, just no! I don’t like that! I’m not 100% into tragic endings either, but sometimes they’re needed. I think the best is bitter sweet endings. They’re more realistic, you know? It’s like there’s something for the evil, sadistic part in me, and another for the emotional part that can handle book-heartbreaks (that’s a thing, trust me)!

    Anyway, great post like always 😉

    • Woaaah that’s SO cool! Hmm… I just might be a mind reader… or a mind Reemer. HAHA! Yeah, I think I like bittersweet endings the best too. Nothing too cheesy, but nothing too depressing either. The more realistic, the better I think! And thanks for stopping by Reem 😀

  3. I’m all for tragic endings. In fact, I demand them. I’m incredibly tired of seeing authors sugarcoat everything. People CAN handle fictional characters dying, so it’s not like they’re going to be delivering the death blow that will end us, you know? Everything is too sweet which makes me bitter (which is so not good for the people around me). I just want a book where characters die because not everyone will survive the apocalypse/some kind of war in real life. If there is no one to mourn at the end, what’s the point? I’m not being bloodthirsty (or I am, but it doesn’t matter right now), but I want to feel something for these characters. I can’t feel sympathy for someone who gets everything with ease. It’s just… blegh.

    • HAHAHA I see. You and my brother are quite similar in thought process 😄 And I knoooow, EVERYONE seems to love a happy ending. I don’t demand a happy ending, but I don’t like it either when a character just… dies. There has to have some sort of reasoning, and in the end, the rest of the world has to move on without him/her. I never like ending my books on a sad, seemingly hopeless note :c But yes agreed– I feel like its unfair when someone just seems to get everything so easily 😦

  4. Such a fun debate, as always! I would like to think I am as open-minded to all endings as your brother, but I don’t think I’ve ever met a tragic ending I was OK with. Bittersweet, yes, tragic, no.

    • Thank you Amy! 🙂 Me too– bittersweet is good, but purely tragic just depresses me 😦 But if there’s an author who can chance my mind, I am surely putting him on a permanent pedestal 😄

  5. Am I the only person who was happy with the ending of Romeo and Juliet? After their whirlwind romance of stupidity, getting other killed and just no common sense, I didn’t care that they tragically died.
    So in that sense, I totally agree with your brother. Tragic endings are life. Not everyone can see the good in the bad, and it’s important to show that life can suck. Not everything is all rainbows and butterflies at the end of a problem.

    • HAHA I loved the ending to Romeo and Juliet! Shakespeare is pro enough to be the rare exception to my rule on this 😄 And that philosophy of yours is interesting. I guess people should just learn to appreciate something even if they’re being thrown bad things to their face. That’s true optimism 😀

  6. I’m catching up on my commenting here, so pardon me for being late to the party! I agree that JUSTIFIED tragic endings lend writers a certain aplomb. It demonstrates to me that they get their characters and have really thought the story through. Many a favorite author has written that killing off or otherwise harming a favorite character sent them in an emotional tailspin. It would seem an easily avoidable task – don’t kill them off. You’re the author – you have the control; however, a good, nay a great, author gives the characters the control to act on their own impulses. I read a great post by J. K. Rowling on Goodreads explaining character development and realistic portrayals of humanity in her adult novel The Casual Vacancy, which definitely has a tragic ending. Her comments really solidified that concept for me.

    • Haha no, that’s quite alright 🙂 Yeah you hit the nail right on the head there! I agree that tragic endings have to be justified. If it’s meaningful, and doesn’t seem like a cheap trick, then I’m definitely all for it. I didn’t mind A Casual Vacancy’s ending though. I know a lot of us did but I don’t 🙂

      • I agree about The Casual Vacancy’s ending. I was feeling kind of meh about the book but the ending really took my breath away in a oh-how-awful kind of way.

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