Happy Vs. Sad Endings (Part Two: Sad Endings)

Greetings fellow bookworms!

Some of you may remember back in August a certain post I made discussing “happy endings” and the pros and cons. That post was part of a mini-series here on Rambling Reviews delving into the topic of happy and sad endings, and which is better. (If you missed the first post, you can view it here)

Today we’re going to explore the idea of “sad endings”. We’ll look at the different types of sad endings, what I’ve learned from them, and then some cons.

Sad endings.

They break our hearts, bring out our mental (and sometimes physical) screaming voice, and occasionally prompt tears. When I mentioned sad endings, some of you may have thought of the classic, everyone-dies-and-there-is-no-point ending.

Then the little rooster was left alone with the dead hen, and dug a grave for her and laid her in it, and made a mound above it, on which he sat down and fretted until he died too, and then every one was dead.

The Death of the Little Hen by The Brothers Grimm

Hopeless Endings

This is the kind of ending that leaves you wishing there was more. Some books are filled to the brim with sadness and despair, and when you reach the end, everyone dies and you’re left with nothing to console you. The characters who remain are either villains, or they’re left with no hope for the future.

I feel like The Man Who Laughs is a good example of this. Both Gwynplaine and Dea die, leaving the one remaining character to love, Ursus, alone on a boat with no companion but his wolf: right back where he was when the story began, except that now he’s left with a sad feeling of loss and sorrow.

When Ursus returned to consciousness, he found that Gwynplaine was no longer with him, and he saw Homo by the edge of the deck baying in the shadow and looking down upon the water.

The Man Who Laughs by Victor Hugo

Sad Endings

Here we see another kind of sad ending. Our beloved main character (or prominent side character) is gone, or maybe the main goal of the plot failed, or maybe the protagonist never actually got to meet his father. There are plenty of ways for a book to end with this kind of sad ending. Basically, all of the hopes and dreams that we as readers have been pouring into this book are dashed.

But it’s not completely tragic. Our characters have learned a lot along the way; they’ve grown more than they thought was possible, and they’ve changed. We walk away knowing that a better life awaits them than the one they started out with. (A good example of this would be A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)

Hopeful Endings

We’ve discussed hopeful endings in the terms of happy endings, but now let’s look at the change when it comes to sad endings.

In To Kill A Mockingbird, I was shocked at the way the story concluded. The character we’ve all been rooting for is dead, Jem is hurt, and by all appearances, prejudice and racism has won. This could turn into a pretty tragic ending, were it not for the hope that we see at the end of the book.

The doctor says Jem will be okay. And even though Tom Robinson is dead, and all our hearts our still broken over that, there’s hope that his death will begin to awaken some of the inhabitants of Maycomb County to the fact that their outlook on life is wrong.

He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

What Have I Learned from Sad Endings?

Despite the fact that sad endings can make you sob into your pillow for half the night, there’s a lot to be learned from them.


Yes, hope. While we can discover hope in happier endings, we can also find it in those sad endings. Sometimes we need to see Sam as he tearfully accepts the fact that Frodo is leaving for The Grey Havens—to make us realize that we can find hope and acceptance in our own sense of loss and grieving.

Ability to Relate

I’m not going to lie; there is a lot of pain and sorrow in life. Sad endings remind us of this truth, in a way that we resonate with. When reading books that don’t always end on a happy note, I find it easier to accept the harder things in my life. We’ve all been there; we all know what pain feels like. We all know what it means to not quite reach that happy ending. And with the ability to relate comes the ability to feel.

Open Our Eyes to the Truth that We Live in A Broken World

Because we do.

Our world is fallen and broken and grieving, and we can’t escape that, no matter how many times we reread that one perfect ending. Ignoring the sadness and suffering in life is unhealthy. The stories in the bible didn’t always have a happy ending. Take a look at Samson, or Eli, or Saul, or Solomon. The bible is full of tragedy.

But we also see that it’s full of hope. We live in a broken world, but we can rest in the hope that one day, it will all be made new.

What Are Some Cons to Sad Endings?

Now we’ll look at a few negatives to sad endings . . .

A Focus on the Despairing Aspects of life

I remember a time not too long ago when I was mainly reading depressing books, reading depressing poetry, writing depressing stories, and listening to depressing music. I wasn’t trying to do any of those things. I thought I had a healthy balance, but I didn’t, and the tragedy that was invading my mind took its toll on my heart.

When we only read books that end tragically, leaving us without hope, we can develop a mentality that focuses only on the most despairing things in life. This can lead us from pessimism, to despair, to hopelessness. It’s a dangerous game to play, and being aware of how much sad material you’re consuming can dramatically change your outlook on life.

Life Doesn’t Have Anything Really Good

This ties into the last point. Life may be broken and sad and painful, but it’s still beautiful. When we lose our focus on the good things in life, we can start to think that life has nothing that’s good. We question God’s holiness and love. Well, if He was a good God, He wouldn’t have done this or that or whatever.

There is always beauty in life and there always will be beauty in life, as long as we keep our gaze centered on God.

And there we go! A conclusion to this rather long post, but I hope you enjoyed hearing my thoughts. Stick around to hear my final thoughts on this topic and whether or not sad or happy endings are better! Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Jehosheba 💖

What do you think? Are happy or sad endings better? What’s one sadder ending you enjoyed?

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