The ending of the novel could arguably be one of the most important parts of the novel, depending on the respective reader. Author’s use the ending of novels to tie up lose ends, reveal any lingering secrets, and make their last bits of commentary on society and the like. As a contemporary society, we usually associate novel endings with “happy endings” due to the Hollywood influences of popular culture. However, in the novels Frankenstein, Mill on the Floss, and Tess of the d’Ubervilles we do not find that the novels end happily, but this can also serve a purpose as well.
As with all three of the novels mentioned above, Frankenstein ends with the death of a central character, Victor Frankenstein. This ending helps to further demonstrate the unsatisfactory nature of the struggle between both the Creature and Victor. Through out the course of the novel, one is really not sure who to root for. On the one hand, Victor is our human protagonist who suffers greatly at the hands of the creature; however, he never learns from his mistakes and has brought all of his misfortune on himself. On the other hand, the Creature never asked to be created and is never really given a chance to be good; however, he murders people and terrorizes Victor. In the end Victor dies, the Creature gives a long speech and Shelley concludes with “He sprung from the cabin-window as he said this, upon the ice-raft which lay close to the Vessel. He was soon born away by the waves, and lost in the darkness and distance” (221). The ending is unsatisfactory, much in the way that the two central characters are, thus the ending reflects a major characteristic of the novel itself.
Continuing on, Mill on the Floss is another novel that features the death of two prominent characters at the end; however, unlike Frankenstein these deaths actually provide significant fulfillment of the novel whereas the death of Victor really did not. To accept this argument, one must re-examine the nature of Tom and Maggie’s relationship. While not the major story line of the novel, the characterization of Tom and Maggie’s relationship plays a part in the failure (or lack thereof) of their romantic relationships. Each one of them is intensely passionate about the other, but the consequences of this is that they often fight and cause a lot of grief in each others lives. Therefore, it creates a scenario in which they can’t live with each other but can’t really live without each other either. Thus, when the novel ends with Elliot saying, “The boat reappeared—but brother and sister had gone down in an embrace never to be parted: living through again in one supreme moment the days when they clasped their little hands in love, and roamed the daisied fields together” (517), the reader actually gets a sense of fulfillment as there is closure provided to that particular conflict at last.
Finally, in Hardy’s Tess of the d’Ubervilles the reader is presented with the death of Tess. Unlike the two aforementioned novels though, the death of this central character provides the novel with a sense of relief and closure. Through out the later half of the novel, Tess has essentially been running from her demons. She has killed Alec in order to be with Angel but this act has made it so they have to run and hide, creating yet another obstacle that impedes Tess from truly being with Angel. In fact, most of the novel has centered around various obstacles that have impeded her from being with Angel, whether it was her own inhibitions about telling him about her past or his subsequent reaction when he does find out. So when the reader is presented with yet another challenge in the way, it begins to feel like a never ending roller coaster that we can’t quite seem to get off. Thus, one of the final parting sentences that reads “‘Justice’ was done and the President of the Immortals, in Aeschylean phase had ended his sport with Tess” (396), the reader is relieved to finally know the answer to the “will they/ won’t they” debate. It may be an unsatisfying answer to the reader, but it’s an answer at last.