Every time you finish a good book, a satisfying ending will leave you feeling exhilarated–but one that doesn’t tie up loose ends will leave you feeling lost. Similarly, one that gives you too much grief will be difficult to get over. Good or bad, happy or sad, the end of a book always brings about mixed emotions that can usually be summarized into five stages. Since conclusions leave lasting impressions on readers, authors sometimes struggle with finding the most suitable way to finish up their stories. Imagine if authors of these famous books had adopted these alternate endings instead… How would you react?
Warning: Major SPOILERS ahead.
1. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Official ending: Pip reunites with Estella and believes that they shall never part from each other again.
The ending(s) that could have been: In Dickens’ original draft, Pip met Estella after she had married again. After some small talk and stiff hand-shaking, Pip leaves with the knowledge that they will never be together. Dickens’ friend Edward Bulwer-Lytton complained about how bleak this is and the writer changed it to what we are familiar with nowadays. Moreover, Dickens also wrote several other endings upon request by his Victorian writer friends such as Thomas Hardy, Lewis Carroll, George Bernard Shaw and John Ruskin. Each of these alternate ending would correspond to the friend’s style of writing.
2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Official ending: Augustus’ cancer returns and he dies, leaving Hazel distraught. However, the abrasive Peter van Houten shows up at Augustus’s funeral to apologize and to inform her of the sequel to An Imperial Affliction that Augustus had been writing.
The ending that could have been: John Green shared with Nat Wolff, the actor who plays Issac, that there was an “epically terrible” ending in which after Augustus dies, Hazel and van Houten team up to challenge a drug lord in honor of their dear friend despite knowing that they themselves will die “in a hail of bullets from all of the security around the drug lord.” After he sent this original draft to his editor, she read it and said, “The last 40 pages, I can’t tell if you’re kidding.”
3. Matilda by Ronald Dahl
Official ending: On Matilda’s way to the police, her nasty parents finally agree to let Miss Honey take care of her and they live happily ever after.
The ending that could have been: In an early version of Dahl’s story, Matilda dies in the end. Before you gasp at this shockingly absurd ending, you should know that Dahl had originally written this book as a cautionary tale. The earlier Matilda was an extremely naughty child who pulled nasty pranks on everyone around her. Her eventual death would have been justification for an accumulation of her wrongdoings.
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Official ending: In the ultimate battle between Hogwarts and Lord Voldemort, the dark side was defeated. Although some memorable characters such as Snape, Lupin and Fred Weasley died during this violent battle, Hogwarts is restored and Harry makes a happy life with Ginny and his friends.
The ending that could have been: J.K. Rowling teased at a potential ending that involved a battle between Harry and Lord Voldemort within the Forbidden Forest, where the Dark Lord orders Dementors to kiss his wand, thus creating a powerful curse to kill Harry. However, the spirits of Voldemort’s dead parents appear in time to comfort Harry. Their sudden appearance causes Voldemort to grow younger just in time for the curse to rebound off Harry’s scar. As the curse is reversed to the caster, Voldemort gets turned into a statue and lives on forever in his parents’ possession. “Never able to leave. And never wanting to.”
5. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Official ending: The ending that survived through Hemingway’s revision is one full of poignancy. Frederic’s lover dies during labor and he has no choice but to live on with this loss.
The ending that could have been: At the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, Seán Hemingway studied the author’s collected drafts and discovered that there were 47 endings to A Farewell to Arms.
The most positive version: “When I woke the sun was coming in the open window and I smelled the spring morning after the rain and saw the sun on the trees in the courtyard and for that moment it was all the way it had been.”
The ‘Nada Ending’ – “That is all there is to the story. Catherine died and you will die and I will die and that is all I can promise you.”
The ‘Live-Baby Ending’ – “There is no end except death and birth is the only beginning.”
6. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Official ending: After Hannah commits suicide, Clay takes her tapes and reaches out to Skye, a childhood friend who is displaying suicidal behavior.
The ending that could have been: Asher revealed that he had originally intended for Hannah to survive. However, he decided to scrap out this second chance ending because he wanted to send a powerful message to his readers. “With suicide there are no second chances,” he told Penguin Teen. “But readers are shown that people can change for the better, even after a tragedy, and that was very important to me.”
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