That idea engrained into our minds from a very early age. Many (if not all) of the stories we are read as children all end happily. [But then again do you really want to upset a small child by ending a story badly?] Generally this trend of happy endings follows readers as they grow. Of course, the definition of happy ending depends on the genre and type of book. The basic idea is the same: everything turns out okay in the end (the boy gets the girl or vice versa, the kid saves his/her parents, the team saves the world from destruction, etc). I’ve got questions for you to think about: are happy endings a good thing? Should we continue to have them in books?
I keep going back and forth on the issue. On one hand, I read to escape my life. Obviously things aren’t perfect for me. I don’t always get what I want. That’s real life though. Stories allow you to experience things that you won’t get to experience in your normal day to day life and that includes happy endings. Why wouldn’t you want the characters that you’ve grown to love be happy? It’s nice to fantasize about a ‘good life’. I don’t want to finish a book and be upset and miserable. [I’ve read books that don’t end happily and it always feels like a punch in the gut]
On the other hand, it could lead to disappointment. Small kids might start to think that happy ending are the way things should be and become increasingly frustrated when they don’t happen. What about us grown ups who ‘know better’? Should we read books that stick closer to our world (the wrong people die, things don’t work out the way we want, etc)? Don’t we to look to literature to figure out how to cope with life (to a certain extent)? Can we learn to cope if our learning tool is skewed?
I might be rambling at this point but I think you understand what I’m trying to say. What are your feelings on the subject?