Saturday, 18 September 2010
Epilogues: When Stories End With Ugh
Big deal in that the reader usually catches a glimpse into the character's 'happily ever after' and more importantly, what the happily married (ugh) couple name their children. Part of me has to like it, the subconscious part, as I continue to read these kinds of books but I do find them to be unnecessary. Almost like that annoying girl that we all have in our lives that needs to tack on a tidbit more information than is necessary. I roll my eyes at that girl and I do the same for the humble epilogue.
In terms of the three current grand poobahs of young adult literature we have the Twilight saga, the Harry Potter series* and the Hunger Games trilogy. I am going to discuss the use of epilogues in terms of these three cultural phenomenons - two of which I have read recently, one in which I would love to strike from my memory. (There will be spoilers for all three series so consider yourself warned.)
I think it is necessary for me to define what an epilogue is - "The epilogue is the final section of a novel or story, which provides a comment or conclusion to what has happened. It follows the book's climax, and ties up any loose knots." A badly written and/or unnecessary epilogue is a garnish on a plate that has already gone cold - limp and trying to camouflage the main. Personally, I don't remember epilogues unless they're bad and I think that should be the case. An effective epilogue gently completes the story, it shouldn't declare itself with a bang as the definition states ...."follows the book's climax".
Why were my panties in a twist? Firstly, it was rushed and the quality of the writing wasn't on par with the rest of the book. It was almost as if Rowling tried to squash the first third of a continuing title into HP7's remaining pages. Secondly, an epilogue should not be that long or expansive. Everyone was paired off and bred. Each spawn was named (preposterously at that) to provide fan fiction writers with spin off material. It was not so much the presence of the epilogue but the sheer size and scope of it. Rowling would have been better off making the epilogue short and less bogged down with minutiae or written another title for the series set a) in Hogwarts and the offspring of the HP characters or b) middle aged Harry, Ron and Hermione doing something.....okay, that idea sucks. What we did receive was a thinly written, detail ridden piece of fan girl nonsense about what happened to the characters if death didn't find them. They would, of course, find their destined one in a fellow Hogwarts alum to which they get married and provide future students for their alma mater. While it touched on the weight of those that passed away during the series' history and attempted a exploration of life after battle and an avalanche of hope. It just didn't work very well, it just seemed trivial. (And on a complete fangirl note....I've never liked Ginny and thought Harry should have died so this just rubbed salt into my wounds.)
Breaking Dawn is the extended happily ever after epilogue. Except its extension removed the fun bits (the baby making) and left us with bruises, a frightfully long and unnecessarily gruesome birth scene and an aberration (the child that I refuse to name). Again people are paired up willy nilly, Jacob and the aberration? Really? I refuse to discuss this one anymore as my memory has faded with time and Google is not having the pleasure of me typing 'Breaking Dawn + what happens?' But if you are going to subvert the notion of an epilogue and try to go out with a bang....make the bang a bang, instead of a whimper. The force field thingy was anti-climatic and really lame. Good luck, film makers.
I will add that Breaking Dawn also has the pleasure of being adapted into a two part film. But we all know that has nothing to do with addressing story points with adequate screen time and everything to do with the all powerful dollar. I sound jaded, it might be time for me to conclude my rant.
What immediately springs to your mind when a bad epilogue is discussed? Though I chose not to discuss it in this post I would like to suggest that the epilogue in Simone Elkeles' Perfect Chemistry made an otherwise great read finish on a bum note. Evidence that sometimes an epilogue is the wrong thing to attempt?
* For those of you who argue that HP isn't YA, I would agree that as a series it isn't wholly YA but the majority of it is. For those of you who wish to argue...go ahead BUT he attends a magical high school for goodness sakes.
Posted by Adele