Friday, 14 September 2012

Narratives And Their Conclusions

The nature of a narrative is shown by the kind of climax or conclusion to which it leads. I concurrently reread Poul Anderson's Matuchek/Old Phoenix sequence and Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: Worlds' End (New York, 1994) because both series have an inter-cosmic inn.

These four Anderson novels each have a foregone conclusion: the triumph of good over evil. Three Hearts And Three Lions does not describe its climactic battle, just the hero setting off to it. Operation Luna ends with a battle against demons. In each individual skirmish, a good guy dispatches a demon until the demonic survivors flee. Hardly surprising. In Black Easter, James Blish simply reverses this conclusion: the demons win Armageddon.

Worlds' End tells different kinds of stories with a different kind of ending. The "handsome cabin boy" ends her story by saying that she will continue to masquerade as a boy as long as she can:

" '...for now - - you can call me Jim.' " (p. 90)

Brant Tucker narrates from the first word and we assume that he directly addresses the reader. To our surprise, on the last two pages, 161-162, he is seen to be addressing a bar maid in an otherwise empty bar. The conclusion is them saying, "Good night," and him walking away down a dark city street. We are left to reflect on their lives.

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