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5763RE: [mythsoc] When the King Comes Home: SPOILER ALERT

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  • Pauline J. Alama
    Apr 8, 2002
      Well, in older literature the happy ending had to be either marriage or (in the case of a saint's legend) symbolic marriage to Christ. Not that I've generally found the latter a completely satisfying ending -- as a child, when I read a version of Robin Hood that left him with devotion to Mary rather than Maid Marian, I felt a bit cheated. But marriage is a good ending in a book -- even though, yes, in real life it's not an ending but a beginning of a whole new adventure, which not unfrequently turns ugly. But marriage is a good literary ending because of what it can symbolize: reconciliation (especially when you have a marriage across formerly feuding boundaries) and the continuation of life (as Benedick says at the end of Much Ado About Nothing, when he's mocked for marrying after years of railing against marriage, "The world must be peopled!").

      The traditional endings of stories are marriage (comedy & romance) and death (tragedy & epic). They're not the only possible endings; for example, the end of a war and the signing of a peace treaty can be a good happy ending of a story. In some respects, When the King Comes Home gives us that sort of ending --the war ends-- but it seems incomplete to me, because no new order is set up, and so I find it hard to believe the war is really over. This kind of ending really ought to take a stronger line on solving the public problems of the plot: who governs after the king dies without an heir, how do we prevent the problems of misrule and warfare that we have seen from recurring. Having neglected the public solution, she might at least have given us a tidier private solution. But here, too, she leaves things somewhat unfinished.

      I suppose we could say that Hail's happy ending is symbolic marriage to her art. But we don't really see her make that decision -- not even as much as that boring little artist in "To the Lighthouse," who has the moment of revelation when she decides that she doesn't have to marry whatsisname because she can move the tree to the center of her painting & not marry anyone (to which I responded, huh? You can't move the tree to the center *and* marry someone? But I digress.) We only find out indirectly that Hail never marries, because she mentions that Ludovico's children & Tig's children have visited her, implying that neither of their children are hers as well. We don't see her turn down Ludovico, or comment wryly that despite all his flirting, Ludovico never asked her to marry him, or anything -- it's simply not considered. If it was not to be considered, why put in all the obvious flirting to begin with? I don't get it.

      Pauline J. Alama
      (Bantam Spectra, July 2002)

      --- On Sat 04/06, dianejoy@... wrote:
      > Original Message:
      > -----------------
      > As for the marriage thread, I was totally faked out. I thought that maybe
      > Stevermer was going to throw a twist by having Hail marry Tig instead of
      > Ludovico. What I wasn't expecting was that, not only doesn't she marry
      > either guy, but there's no discussion of why she doesn't. Is it the
      > "To the Lighthouse" assumption that a woman can have either art
      > or marriage, but not both? Never liked *that* book a bit.
      > __________________________
      > I suspect some feminism lurks in Stevemere's psyche. No problem can be
      > solved with marriage under her assumptions. I think a lot of problems
      > *are* solved with two parent families, that is, if the parents are
      > committed to each other and to their kids. In ancient days, that was an
      > unspoken assumption (which is why most comedies and fantasies ended with
      > marriage). Mythic and societal reasons coincided. Now, of course, we
      > question everything. I really was rooting for the cute guard who kept
      > accompanying Hail to the library; I forget now if he was Ludovico or Tig.
      > Must get the paperback (hopefully at a library sale) to refresh my memory.
      > ---djb
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