Misery for the Sake of Happiness

†††††††† Misery is all around us. Wars rage all over the world, and natural disasters strike at our most vulnerable times. Personal misery in the world is quite evident when one looks at the rate of divorce. Society is riddled with hardship and tragedy, so why should not the movies we watch? Why should the books we read always have happy endings when it does not mirror reality? Without such miserable works, societyís perception of real life might greatly differ from what is really going on in the world.

†††††††† If all of the books and movies that are released contained nothing more than happiness and good cheer, what a boring world we would all live in. Stories need those bad things to happen; they need the ďbad guys.Ē It is called conflict, and there would not be much of a story without it. There would be no plot without any sort of conflict. Take Henry Jamesís 1880 Washington Square, for example. This story, filmed in 1949 by William Wyler, was just one big conflict after all. If Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift) had not tricked Catherine Sloper (Olivia de Havilland) into thinking that he loved her to get her money, there just would have been a bunch of characters doing nothing. She never would have fought with her father (Ralph Richardson) and probably would have gone on living peacefully under his house. There would not have been a story.

†††††††† Books and films need conflict not only for the plot but also for the realism. After all, this is why people enjoy them so much. People love to be able to relate to the characters. The best stories are the ones that feel real. Happy, sunny stories are not real. There is not a rainbow every time that it rains. Stories need the misery to bring the characters to life. If not, the characters would be just like robots that are only programmed to smile and agree. Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier), from Emily BrontŽís 1847 Wuthering Heights filmed in 1939 by William Wyler, was not a smiling person. He wore a permanent scowl because of the grief he carried on his shoulders. His character was believable and real because of his actions, mainly unpleasant, and him miserable life.

†††††††† One of the main reasons that writers and movie makers put such unhappy and horrible things in their stories and films is that it is what happens in the real world. If they did not witness these unpleasant things happening all around them, they would not put the same things in their works. Spousal abuse and also rape are very common, unpleasant events that occur. Tennessee Williams shows us this in A Streetcar Named Desire. Stanley (Marlon Brando) is seen as the typical, American man and some of the things that he does are just playing homage to the same things happening across America. A majority of people are in debt, divorced, or both. Henrik Ibsen covers these things in his 1879 A Dollís House, filmed twice in 1973 by Joseph Losey and Patrick Garland. Although we do not need the media to remind us how miserable we are, it does a good job in showing us how miserable we can be if we are not careful.

†††††††† I am not against happy endings by no means. Without them, what a depressing world we would live in. However, without conflicts of some sort, there would not be any satisfying happy endings. There would be no villains to loathe, and, more importantly, no heroes to cheer on. There would be no reason for a happy ending, and that would perhaps be more depressing in the long run.

Lorrie Veach

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