Friday, May 11, 2012

Commencements and Neat Finishes

Dear readers and writers,

This is the graduation season, the time of commencements of later lives and endings of academic endeavors.  I missed my husband's diploma ceremony at Claremont School of Theology/Episcopal School of Theology at Claremont last weekend because I was in New Haven (saw lots of good pictures!), but today I went to ceremonies for Scripps and Pomona Phi Beta Kappa students and tomorrow I will go to my daughter's MBA ceremony.  I was very taken with what the scholarship winner at the Scripps PBK initiation said, urging us all to shamelessly follow our passions.

One of her introductory remarks noted that it's neither the start nor the end of anything; life is continuous and so are our passions.  That reminded me of something I heard at Libby Grandy's critique group way back when: where you choose to end to your story, whether memoir or fiction, will cause it to be a tragedy or a comedy.  But of course, there is no end.  Chekhov said of his short story characters that he liked to return them to their lives once the story was over.  The neat "happy ever after" or the disastrous tragic death scene are not real enough to satisfy.  We all enjoy trying to guess what the characters will do next, and we don't really want to find the author dictating their future.

Enjoy your speculations about what you read, and if you like, share some of your favorite final ambiguities in the comments!

Image from Creative Commons, with thanks!


Anonymous said...

Hi Laura,
Remember in the UCLA short story class where we read that story about the fireman's wife? Wow, we really disagreed about what she was going to do once his burns healed, remember? That's probably my favorite ending with room to speculate.
Moody Melody

Anonymous said...

Well, even in Tess of the d"Urbervilles, I go back and forth about how Angel felt about Tess after she died. I can imagine him losing his empathy when she was no longer around to charm him with her beauty, but I can also imagine him keeping her always in his heart. Coin toss for me, but I love to think about it.
Ross M