Outside the Margins: What Happens After the Story Ends

I'm afraid that this is going to be one of those "There are two kinds of people…" posts, but there it is: there are two kinds of people (truly!) (maybe): Those that think the story continues outside the confines of the fictional work, and those who don't.

Here is what I mean: It is said that Jane Austen knew the post-novel fates of every single one of her characters. (Don't you like "it is said?" It means I don't have to write, "I vaguely remember reading on the internet one time, and I think it was about Jane Austen….")

Do you want to know how crazy I am? Here we go: Austen knew this, I believe, because they exist: both the characters and their real actual lives. They exist in the alternate fictional universe where stories come from. (For a different and, I believe, not entirely accurate depiction of this world, I refer you to Haroun and the Sea of Stories, and though I don't think he gets it exactly right, it is a wonderful story.) And even if the novels themselves (all novels) don't contain the full story of a person, the full story is there still, hovering invisibly in the background.

I wish I knew, of course, what these stories were. I love it so when an author takes some time at the end of the book, as in Anna Karenina or (more recently) Jess Walter's Beautiful Ruins, to tell you what happens in the rest of the lives of the people you've fallen for. And because I have in many ways terrible taste, I feel that the platonic ideal of this is Animal House, when you find out about Senator Blutarsky in the final credits. 

So: Do you believe this? And: Whose story do you wish you knew?

(And sorry for all the colons and parentheses. I am on a colon and parentheses kick, and I don't know if it will ever end.)

6 thoughts on “Outside the Margins: What Happens After the Story Ends

  1. Oh, my gosh…Yes! I totally think the story keeps going! I thought it might be because of the whole “soap opera” watching growing up, but now…maybe I am normal!
    (I thought I would give you ellipses and exclamation points to go with your colons and parentheses.) šŸ™‚

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  2. I think it’s true and sometimes even manifested when characters appear in different novels by the same author. They pop up — older or even extraneous. I’m thinking of Michael Ondaatje — he does that. As for the old novels — the classics — I think, absolutely and that’s why it’s such a horrible bummer to finish a novel that you’ve become a part of — (sorry to use dashes instead of appropriate grammar).

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  3. Francie Nolan
    and Al and the narrator from Constance C. Green’s A Girl Called Al and its sequels. I hope they stayed friends all of their lives.

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  4. The season finale of SIX FEET UNDER shows the fate of each character in the most amazing sequence I’ve ever seen on TV. PS, Marcia, don’t apologize for parentheses; I once wrote an entire paper on VA Woolf’s use of parentheses in TO THE LIGHTHOUSE. You are in good company!!! Cheers, ST

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  5. Check out Jacqueline Kelly’s official website to see what she states happens to Calpurnia Tate several years AFTER the story ends. Most perfect conclusion ever.

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