Not only am I not one to shy away from books with complicated, ambiguous—even bad—endings, I tend to gravitate towards them. After all, life is messy, and stories can provide insight, comfort, communion, and a way to navigate its inherent thorniness. But lately, I need some levity. There can still be a villain, but not an invisible one, please. Give me an unmistakable scoundrel to rail against, and heroes to wholeheartedly root for. To that end I’m revisiting some classics that provide just that.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Lift yourselves from the doldrums with this epic tale of the heroic quest a humble hobbit undertakes to keep a powerful ring from the clutches of the Dark Lord.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Crusading lawyer fights injustice, his idealistic daughter fights with…well, most everything, and a creepy neighbor isn’t so creepy after all…. There’s a reason why this novel is so beloved.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Is there a Jane Austen novel that doesn’t have a happy ending? Regardless, you might as well begin with one of the most famous love stories of all time.
The Odyssey by Homer
Greek tragedy is like a literary soap opera and this famous poem has all the ingredients of a dishy one: You’ve got ruin, revenge, and also love and loyalty as evidenced by one of the most hard-won reunions in literary history.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
OK sure, much of Ms. Eyre’s life is a series of (sometimes very) unfortunate events, and the object of her affections isn’t always easy for the reader to even like, but there is something very satisfying about the outcome of their bumpy romantic road.
This article was originally published on April 3, 2020.
Spoiler alert: All's well that ends well in these handful of classics, and that's the kind of story I'm craving right now. Maybe you are too.