Thursday, March 15, 2012

good tragedy

I love a good (fictional) tragedy.  I've even been accused of liking them too much.  But I've realized something recently about my insistence on following a tragedy through to the bitter end: the reason I love tragedy is because I love redemption.

Unless you spoil the book for yourself, if it's well-written, you don't necessarily know whether it's going to end in tragedy or whether there will be some sort of successful attempt at redemption.  Many times, there's a crappy and unsatisfying happy ending that has nothing to do with redemption.  Sometimes I don't care because I want the happy ending. 

Other times, I feel cheated.  Why did I emotionally invest in this story and its characters if their ending was fake and unearned? 

Sometimes if it's just the ending that fails at redemption, I still like the story because the ending is not everything in a story, but I usually need some time to recover from the let-down of the ending before I can again think happy thoughts about the journey to the ending.

I can't tell you how much I love a solid ending that feels real and true, where the redemption is earned by blood, sweat, and tears.  Some call these endings bittersweet, and I like that idea.  The bitterness of the tragedy doesn't just go away, but all the sweetness in life is not lost.  Of course, technically it's not a tragedy if there's any sweetness to the ending (at least not classically speaking), but I have to say I would rather read The Sparrow than Hamlet or Oedipus Rex

I wonder if this is enough to get me kicked out of the Unofficial Society of People Who Have Studied Literary Fiction.

That said, I do love a good tragedy, too.  The sweetness of redemption might be sweeter if it's known that the tragedy of failure was a real possibility and a definite reality for other characters in other stories.  Maybe grace is amazing not only because of redemption but because not everyone experiences it.

Any thoughts?


  1. I think you should watch Eureka. I can't decide from episode to episode whether to count it as comedy or tragedy, so you would probably love it. Also, I'm all jumped up on pregnancy hormones and would enjoy getting your more normal perspective on it.

  2. Bring it on! Several people have recommended the show to me over the years. It sounds right up my alley. : ) Let me know when/if you want to watch.