Sunday, February 16, 2014

Interpreting Happily Ever After

And they lived happily ever after… or maybe they didn’t. Maybe they broke up in a fiery fight a month or year later. Maybe there were curse words and flying objects. Maybe there was couples’ counseling.


As readers, we like to believe that certain fictional couples—our favorites usually—stay together forever. I like to believe that Katniss and Peeta, Ron and Hermione, Harry and Ginny, Cath and Levi, Etienne and Anna all lived “happily ever after.” Or that they lived together, and worked every day on their relationships.

Some YA authors don’t give their couples a “happily ever after” and I understand why. Teens are young. Who finds their soulmate in high school? Okay so I know a few couples, but mostly, no. These young couples are still growing, still changing, maybe one or both aren’t ready for a long-term relationship or maybe they don’t know each other that well.

As it turns out, even if characters are together in a flash-forward epilogue, it doesn’t mean they live happily. I did relish Ron and Hermione’s get-married-have-children-send-them-off-to-Hogwarts-a-dozen-years-later ending. The “happily ever after” I imagined for them changed with Emma Watson’s interview with Rowling. I realize now that Ron and Hermione might have needed couples’ counseling. Maybe (even though it pains me to admit this) Hermione would have been happier with Harry or someone else entirely. But Rowling didn’t leave the Deathly Hallows epilogue open for interpretation. That ending is unchangeable.

(I take solace in the fact that no matter how many people that interview reaches, it will never be able to reach as many people as the books have.)

Seven years ago, people disliked the resolute nature of the Deathly Hallows epilogue. Now, this revelation has readers fired up again. However, I’ve also seen readers criticize authors that leave endings open for interpretation. Even though it’s not right that it’s a lose-lose situation, it’s the nature of writing beloved characters.

It's my opinion that no matter how a story ends, I can imagine the ending any way I like. Authors can’t take away my imagined ending, whether it was mirrored in text or not. In the end, books belong to their readers.*

So, I imagine Ron and Hermione together, living mostly happily. They may argue on a semi-regular basis and they may need an occasional trip to counseling. But they love each other. It’s not a romantic life, but it’s realistic. And it’s my interpretation.
What's your interpretation of Ron and Hermione's happily ever after? What about any favorite YA couples?


*John Green said this, but I imagine others have as well.  

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