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I’m having a dilemma with my novel.
I remember back in my freshman year of high school, I was exposed to Ayn Rand for the first time with her novella, “Anthem.” (are we only putting book titles in quotes now? Didn’t they stop using underline or something?) I remember starting an uproar about reading it for class because I detested it so much (even though I only understood it at the most fundamental level at the time, it’s [arguable] complexities were beyond my 14-year-old brain) and held an open vendetta against my teachers for sometime for making us read it. But that’s besides the point.
One of the things that still sticks with me about the book was the discussion of how the book had an impact on literature, Rand’s bastardised philosophies aside. Because the book comes to no real conclusion or accomplishment for the protagonist, it stands out in the literary world. Again, something arguable about the book. The protagonist ends up running away from the intellectually oppressive and individualism-begotten society with the girl he loves (holds up on a pedestal for her beauty only to find out she’s dumber than a bag of rocks) to a place full of books where he he intends to spend the rest of his days learning as much as he can in hopes of one day returning to society and disestablishing the horror that it is.
What’s arguable about whether or not this is considered a resolution or real ending is that yes, the character escapes, but what has he really accomplished or overcome? He is still but one mind against a hive that wants him dead for seeking the knowledge he has discovered and desires so much more of. He is one against the human race. Society and the government is still a dystopia and he is still only one free thinker against it. He has run away from his problem, but he never resolved it. The novella ends with his desires and intentions to dissolve the oppressors, but we have no way of knowing if he ever gets the opportunity, and if so, if he ever succeeds (though a realistic projection is that they hunt him down and slaughter him like an animal).
Now I’ve read far too many examples of ‘literature’ of my generation and those before it where an ending similar to this is just fine and dandy. But then, these books never had the philosophical or socio-political impact that Rand’s work did, so they were never scrutinised as “Anthem” was. So did any of these works that I’m referring to have a ‘real’ ending?
I suppose the idea to an ending for any story is that there is a conclusion. Hopefully there is a resolution, and more hopefully a resolution in which the lovable protagonist conquers his self-doubts and over-comes the many obstacles that had been lain in his way, but not necessarily. Now I’m worried that my story that I’ve so much time and emotional effort into constructing up to this point is devoid of such a resolution.
Ultimately, the antagonist withdraws from the protagonists life and begins the chain reaction that leads to healing and self-improvement, not the protagonist conquering the antagonist in any sort of way. And when the story comes to a close, only the beginning of the protagonists self-improvement is glimpsed at, never confirmed or denied or carried all the way through. The protagonist doesn’t over-come any obstacles on his own—they become to heavily laden on him throughout the course of the book that he completely collapses under the pressure, and again, does not recover from his own actions. He doesn’t defeat the antagonist and he doesn’t break-through obstacles on his own, if at all. In the end, the antagonist chooses to pull himself away from the protagonist, and it is only then that he begins to see the light of day again.
Does this qualify as an ending? It’s really only a ‘conclusion’ in the sense that this is where the physicality of the book will conclude. Can this possible qualify as a resolution? I’m stuck. I’m stuck obsessing and thinking about this and wondering if I should change it but I’ve been working on it for so long that the characters and the flow of events have become so stuck in my mind that they may as well be facts in the real world.
I’m worried that when it all comes down to it, I’ll just have written myself into a hole and that will be the end of it.