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“At The End Of A Story Or Novel, You Do Not Want The Reader Thinking”

A photo of a girl reading and biting her nails

This photograph was taken by aptmetaphor.

This statement can be found here. When I read it, I couldn’t but strongly disagree and whilst I tried to think whether I was wrong, if emotions are always so important in the way suggested (you want the reader feeling instead), I couldn’t say I feel it is so.

What do you think of this? To me there are too many points against it, all falling under a couple of umbrellas, so to speak. Whilst emotions are important, there are too many cases wherein making the reader think at the end is crucial to the success of the story.

Chief to me is obviously the ambiguous ending. An ambiguous ending can aid a book’s longevity and give the reader something to think about. My thought is why on earth should that be a bad thing, or at least inferior to emotions themselves? It concerns comprehension, which the writer could perhaps see as something that detracts from the story (if seen in its academic state) but moreover it gets us talking and often ensures a lasting engagement. In this case, the statements – logic is emotion’s enemy; disarm the reader of logic and make them feel – are problematic because you can have an emotional ambiguous ending that requires logical thinking.

An ending that has to be thought through does not necessarily equate to a lack of emotion. When you have to think through an ending to understand it, the process itself can deliver a series of punches or smiles. Endings about emotions are good, but they aren’t the only way.

What do you think?



July 15, 2016, 12:41 pm

Historically, the best books are those that do have the reader thinking at the end, how else would people keep books in their head?

And I definitely agree that thinking doesn’t mean your not feeling.


July 15, 2016, 2:49 pm

I’ve always said that one of the marvellous things about Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is the ambiguity of the ending and the obvious contradictions in her afterword…they make the reader think, because more than just a novel, it’s a satire.

Tracy Terry

July 16, 2016, 4:46 pm

Well, you have certainly giving me something to think about.

I’m so with you in that endings with emotions are good but are not the only way. In fact when I really think about it, it is often the books with ambiguous endings that I recall best – the Handmaid’s Tale being one that does indeed come to mind as Jeanne rightfully states.

Jenny @ Reading the End

July 16, 2016, 7:39 pm

I’m with you — if a novel leaves me thinking about the ideas and characters inside it after I finish reading it, that’s a mark in its favor, usually! Plus I think it’s a mistake to think of feelings and thoughts as separate spheres. When my emotions are engaged to some extent about a thing, that tends to make me more likely, not less, to give that thing more thought and energy. So! I agree with you and disagree with whoever said the title line of the post.

Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

July 18, 2016, 2:45 am

Huh? That is an enormous sort of blanket statement to make. Having read some of the context, I can see that you don’t want intellectual thinking to get in the way of the emotional impact of a story, but thinking doesn’t HAVE to interfere with emotion, and thinking about a story after its over can heighten its emotional impact. The statement is way too black and white.

Literary Feline

July 18, 2016, 10:22 pm

I tend to favor books that draw out strong emotions, but, when it comes right down to it, often these are also books that have given me a lot of pause for thought. The same goes for the ending. Ideally, an ending will leave me emotional AND make me think.

I don’t mind an ambiguous ending. It really depends on the book and if it fits with the type of story being told.


August 23, 2016, 1:28 pm

Alice: Exactly. Very well said on both counts.

Jeanne: You’ve made me even more interested in reading that book :) Yes, if you can’t think when you’ve read a satire, what on earth was it for?

Tracy Terry: You’re always having to come up with endings for them… it’s a clever device!

Jenny: I agree, and love your explanation. Thinking and feelings often work together… and it sounds a bit obvious when said, so why the article…

Lory: Indeed.

Literary Feline: Thinking of what you cover on your blog, you do. That’s a good point about ambiguity fitting the book. There’s two types of frustration with those endings – one, the oh my god I loved it and I want to know what happened and two – really? why did the author do that?



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