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Ending (Laith)

David Lodge states, “[A] last-minute twist is generally more typical of the short story than of the novel.” He also describes short stories as “end-oriented” since readers expect to reach the conclusion of the story quickly after the story starts.

In Chopin’s short stories there aren’t really major plot twists. In the “Beyond the Bayou” the ending where La Folle overcomes her fear and crosses the bayou is expected from a story that was originally published in a children’s magazine. In fact “Beyond the Bayou” seems to follow a Victorian style where most of the novels and stories ended happily in order to appease the contemporary readers. The story’s ending might have a little twist for the adult reader when La Folle decides for herself to wait by the door of the “master’s house” since at that period of time African-Americans weren’t in a position to decide such a thing and would often be expected to listen to the orders of the white family or at least mind their own business and not just defy the white ex-master by sitting in front of the house. It’s not much of a twist but rather comes across as shocking courage and acceptance from the Cheri’s mother.

Lodge quotes Philip Swallow when he talks about the advantage movies have over novels when it comes to endings. Swallow points out that when approaching the ending of a novel the reader knows exactly in how many pages the novel will end. However, in movies the director has the ability to end the movie whenever s/he pleases which could catch the audience off guard.

Although the quote was originally meant for novels it could apply to short stories too. In “The Lilies” we are made aware of Mr. Billy’s intentions of shooting Toto the calf. After that the little girl devises a plan to touch Mr. Billy’s heart by repaying him with lilies. While at Mr. Billy’s house the reader sees that he is impressed with little Marie Louise so the reader expects the debt to be considered paid. The reason the reader becomes fairly confident in that prediction is that by the Time Marie paid Mr. Billy a visit there was only a couple of pages left so not much should change his mind. In a movie the viewer has no idea when the movie would end therefore there will always be a thought that is concerned that even though Marie seems to be on Mr. Billy’s good side it still might become not enough as the plot further unfolds.

 

David Lodge says that the final chapter of any novel “must exhibit the most striking and surprising shift in narrative form” or risk becoming an anti-climax.

In the short stories there isn’t a drastic shift in narrative form since they aren’t normally split into chapter. There could be however a frame narrative such as the story “La Belle Zoraïde”. For the majority of the story the focus is mainly on the inside story. By the end we return to the outside story and witness the very non-sympathetic reaction by the white mistress then the narrator explains that the reader should not judge the mistress as it was told differently in the original language and things are different in that culture. This shift of narration from indirect free-style focusing on Zoraïde to a regular third person of view distances the readers from the story and makes them think more about the cultural difference rather than judge the mistress.


1 Comment

  1. sbeheri98 says:

    I agree with Lodge’s point about the ending of short stories and the risk of having an anti-climactic ending. With short stories, a quick and near ending is expected to the reader and a sudden twist for the ending is more characterized with short stories than that of novels. This way it is more entertaining to the reader and makes them more intrigued to read more. However, as you said, that isn’t found often in Kate Chopin’s work and if it is found it ends up being anticlimactic like the shooting of Toto as you said

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