The author may choose to craft an ending that provides readers with a satisfying or unsatisfying conclusion. For example, in a standalone novel, it is more likely that the writer will provide some kind of closure to top off the reader’s experience with the book. Without doing so, the reader will be left feeling unfulfilled and perhaps even disappointed with the ending of the book.
In a different example, a writer may choose to refrain from providing any kind of closure at the end of a novel that will have a sequel. Not only will this result in an interesting cliffhanger, but it should also inspire the reader to pick up the second book in the series. In this case, not providing closure is an important part of the book’s ending.
Closure is the feeling a reader experiences when they finish a novel, poem, short story, or other literary work and are satisfied with the ending.
As with all emotions associated with writing, some readers may experience closure while others do not. It’s for this reason that authors often spend more time crafting the end of their literary works than any other part. If the writer wants the reader to feel pleased with the entire process, they need to figure out what closure looks like for their specific literary work.
For some authors, this might be providing information about what happens to each character or simply alluding to a story’s outcome, perhaps providing references to events years in the future that are not covered within the detailed scope of the novel.
There are many different ways a writer might create a feeling of closure. These can be explored below.
How to Create Closure
- Outlining the futures of each character.
- Completely resolving the main conflict of the story and all associated conflicts.
- Killing off or defeating the villain or antagonist of the story.
- Including allusions to a “happily ever after” ending.
Examples of Closure in Literature
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Eliot’s Middlemarch, published in 1871-1872, provides readers with a fantastic example of closure. The book follows the intersecting stories of a variety of characters and touches on themes like education, the role of women in society, marriage, and more. It includes allusions to historical events and, without a proper ending, could leave readers feeling unsatisfied. George Eliot, whose real name was Mary Ann Evans, understood this fact well.
The book ends with a “Finale” that details the future of each main character. For example, Fred and Mary live a classic “happily ever after” with their three children. Here are a few lines from the “Finale” of Middlemarch:
Moreover, Fred remained unswervingly steady. Some years after his marriage he told Mary that his happiness was half owing to Farebrother, who gave him a strong pull-up at the right moment. I cannot say that he was never again misled by his hopefulness: the yield of crops or the profits of a cattle sale usually fell below his estimate; and he was always prone to believe that he could make money by the purchase of a horse which turned out badly—though this, Mary observed, was of course the fault of the horse, not of Fred’s judgment.
Read George Eliot’s poetry.
Rowling’s conclusion to the Harry Potter series is one of the best examples of closure in contemporary literature. She includes an epilogue that describes the future of the three main characters, as well as a few secondary characters. Rowling reveals that Ron and Hermione got married, as did Harry and Ginny. The latter couple has three children together, Lily, James, and Albus, and two of them are already attending Hogwarts. The book ends with the lines:
“He’ll be alright,” murmured Ginny.
As Harry looked at her, he lowered his hand absentmindedly and touched the lightning scar on his forehead.
“I know he will.”
The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.
Both families, which consist of the characters who readers have grown to care the most about, are revealed to live out classic “happily ever after” scenarios.
Discover J.K. Rowling’s best books.
Closure in literature is the feeling a reader experiences when all the events of the storyline are concluded satisfactorily. Without closer, a reader might walk away from a poem, novel, short story, or other literary work feeling as though they wasted their time and with a sense of disappointment regarding the story’s conclusion.
To create closure within a literary work, you need to resolve the main conflict of the story. Perhaps, the antagonist is defeated by the protagonist, the hero of the novel is finally recognized for their heroic deeds, or the futures of all the main characters are revealed in more or less detail.
Without appropriate closure at the end of a story, readers may feel that the writer let them down. They may walk away with a feeling of disappointment. Without revelations about the fate of the main characters or a clear conclusion to the conflict, the story may not be worth reading.
As one makes their way through a long poem, short story, or novel, they become invested in the storyline, the fates of the main characters, and the resolution of the central conflict. That is, if the writer has crafted a compelling story. Without providing readers with a meaningful ending, their attachment to the storyline may feel misplaced. Readers may walk away feeling like the author has not fulfilled their obligations.
Related Literary Terms
- Cliffhanger: a narrative device that’s used to end a story abruptly before an action or segment of the plot is concluded.
- Coming-of-Age Novel: a book that tells the story of a character growing up and going through a series of important life-defining changes.
- Fable: a short and concise story that provides the reader with a moral lesson at the end.
- Frame Story: a narrative within a narrative. It occurs when one character decides to tell another story to the other characters around him/her.
- In Medias Res: refers to the narration of a story beginning part through events, skipping over the exposition.
- Narration: the use of commentary, either written or spoken, to tell a story or “narrative.”