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This just in: people like being happy

As part of the festivities surrounding the U.K. and Ireland’s World Book Day, which took place this year on Thursday, March 2, results of a survey on the topic of happy endings was released. The questions were all quite predictable and concerned favourite happy endings (Pride and Prejudice was the most popular amongst respondents, followed by To Kill a Mockingbird and Jane Eyre), the effects of happy endings on readers (in giving one a sense of satisfaction, in putting one in a better mood for the rest of the day, etc.), and whether, in fact, readers actually prefer happy endings (apparently, they do, at a ratio of 50:1). One question even asked people to choose what sadly ending-book they would most like to change.

It is this question Ben MacIntyre responds to in a recent article published on the Times website. In it, he discusses the booming literary sequel/prequel industry, citing all the Austen copycats, the gravespin-inducing Gone with the Wind sequel, Scarlett, and, oddly, a sequel to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. MacIntyre, who feels that a book’s happy or sad ending has little to do with its literary merit or ability to be memorable, nonetheless decides to get into the act, suggesting alternate endings to some of the classics: “Macbeth is much too depressing. In my version the gentle, unassuming and monosyllabic thane settles down at Cawdor, where Lady Macbeth develops a profitable line in soap that leaves the hands spotless. Hamlet finds a shrink, marries Ophelia and goes into insurance…. Pride and Prejudice could be rendered less saccharine by introducing the scene where Darcy explains to Elizabeth that it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune still in want of a wife is obviously gay, so he is moving to Tangiers to live with Wickham.”

Related links:
Click here for MacIntyre’s piece on the Times website