We’re sure you’re familiar with the concept of a Hollywood ending. If you’d care for a few examples: the guy finally gets the girl, the bad guy gets caught and locked up, good triumphs over evil, you get a perfect score on your SAT. You know – the stuff dreams are made of.
Nearly every Hollywood blockbuster wraps up with a satisfying ending – something that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. On the other hand, rent a few indie films and you’re likely to be confronted with death, sadness, unrequited love and absolute devastation. Hope you weren’t planning on getting any sleep tonight.
The Hollywood blockbusters make gazillions of dollars, while most indie films flop and flounder. The writing and acting are almost certainly superior in the latter, but stories with unhappy endings simply fail to grab audiences on a large scale. Imagine a movie about you studying and working hard in class only to eventually fail your AP Exams. Who’d want to see that?
Which brings us to the subject of this article. Charles Dickens wrote Great Expectations serially – in other words, he churned out a couple of chapters per week for publication in a magazine rather than having the entire thing printed at once. Because of this, he was able to gauge the reactions of his readers as the story progressed, and tweak things here and there accordingly.
One of the major aspects of Great Expectations that changed because of this process was the ending. That’s a pretty major part. Dickens, downer as he was, didn’t want Pip, his protagonist, to wind up with Estella, his one true love. We’re not sure why, but it probably had something to do with his personal frustration at not getting ‘winks’ from anyone on his Match.com page. Anywho, he was advised by a fellow writer to rewrite the ending as more of a crowd-pleaser, as his readers were pretty heavily invested at this point and were really rooting for Pip to get the girl. Dickens did just that, and today both endings are generally published together, although the happy ending is the one that seems to get the most play.
In conclusion, if you want to get audiences on your side and keep them coming back for more, you’ll have to lower your artistic standards and give the people what they want. If you want to stick to your guns, fine – but be prepared to make a whole lot less bank.
Alternate ending: In conclusion, Dickens totally chickened out and sold out. If he had just had a decent pair of cojones, he wouldn’t have had to tack on that silly, saccharine ending which he had never envisioned would be a part of the final product. Instead, he turned himself into just another slave to the Man. Granted, a very well-paid slave.