Chris and Meredith made some interesting comments to the February 23 post regarding happy vs. happily-ever-after and hollywood tragic vs. genuinely tragic endings.
Meredith’s definition of a Hollywood-tragic ending is “tragedy culminates for emotional effect rather than to progress a narrative”, and her examples are good ones (Saving Private Ryan vs. The Bronze Horseman –a novel she liked and I wanted to like, but couldn’t).
The UVic Writer’s Guide has a good entry on tragedy, which starts:
Tragedy depicts serious incidents in which protagonists undergo a change from happiness to suffering, often involving the death of others as well as the main characters, and resulting from both the protagonists’ actions and the inescapable limits of the human condition.
Of course if you’re going to really get into this, there’s a difference between classical tragedy and modern tragedy, but rather than thrash that around I’ll stick with the ‘genuinely tragic’ generalization, and propose that Cold Mountain has a Hollywood-tragic ending and The Hours a genuinely tragic one (and this is true whether you’re talking about the books or the movies). Another issue is this: a genuinely tragic ending doesn’t necessarily make a good story, in my opinion — but it at least has that potential.
At the moment, I’m more interested in examples of happily-ever-after vs. (for lack of a better term) genuinely optimistic endings. I’m thinking about examples. Yell if you’ve got some.