After the Happily Ever After
“The very essence of romance is uncertainty.” –Oscar Wilde
With the dawn of this new Age of Information, we seem to be plagued by a very nagging sort of question: how much information do I really want to know? Now, depending on the topic, the answer to this question can be as vague or specific as one likes. Science, for example, must be as exact as humanly possible. No detail should be overlooked, no stone unturned; repetition of the same tired train of thought is absolutely vital for success in the scientific arena.
Emotions, on the other hand, are a subject so vague and incomprehensive that droves of poets have declared it impossible to fully describe this topic in prose. So why then do we try so hard to quantify that which is, by our own admission, beyond words? It is this writer’s opinion that a story (albeit a book, tv show, movie, etc…) loses its value when attempts are made to go beyond the “happily ever after.”
As Oscar Wilde so aptly said “the very essence of romance is uncertainty.” Human nature seems to demand that we desire that which we do not have. On a very shallow level, we have a tendency to lust after a bigger house or a nicer car. This tendency, however, will sometimes seep over into more personal matters. A romance novel, whether it is Pride and Prejudice or a cheap “smut” you buy at a market, illustrates for us that which most do not have. The majority of us would love to be perused by a dashing and handsome man (it also helps if he’s disgustingly rich) or be desperately trying to win the hand of a breathtakingly beautiful lady. The excitement is in the fantasy of the chase.
Once the chase is completed and the conquest made, what really happens after the happily ever after? On the most practical level: real life. Jane Austen’s characters from Pride and Prejudice, Darcy and Elizabeth, probably had a happy marriage while leading comparatively normal lives. But who wants to know that? The intrigue of their romance rests entirely on the wildness of the reader’s imagination.
Attacking a vague concept such as love with scientific precision and repetition will result in the two canceling each other out. Describing ad nauseam every detail of a fictional character’s post happily ever after life will quickly push their story from the unattainable to the attainable. We read and watch fiction as a way to escape the rigors of normal life. If the fictional characters have lives that start to uncomfortably resemble our own, why even bother? A far more productive use of time would be to read real life accounts from the non-fiction section; then we may at least learn from their experiences.