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Topic: Ambiguity

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Subject: Ambiguity
Date Posted: 10/20/2009 11:20 PM ET
Member Since: 9/14/2005
Posts: 30
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Just read short story - "World's End" by Paul Theroux.   It's about a husband's suspicion that his wife is having an affair.  By the end, it's still unclear if the wife has been unfaithful.   The ending is ambiguous.  I find this frustrating, while others may think this technique adds to the genius of the story.  What do you readers think? Any other examples?

Date Posted: 10/21/2009 11:36 AM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,931
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Another example; the famous short story The Lady and the Tiger,  which frustrates me but I still love anyway.

Date Posted: 10/21/2009 2:10 PM ET
Member Since: 2/11/2007
Posts: 280
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I like my books all tied up in a big red bow. You wrote the book you tell me what's up.

I don't want to guess where you were going.

Date Posted: 10/22/2009 1:02 PM ET
Member Since: 7/24/2009
Posts: 229
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Sometimes this drives me crazy!  I'm taking a course that focuses on the author Don DeLillo, and the books we've read by him so far never have a distinct conclusion.  Now that we've read about five of his novels, I've come to expect that the loose ends won't be tied up and have been able to enjoy them for other reasons. 


Date Posted: 10/22/2009 7:40 PM ET
Member Since: 9/14/2005
Posts: 30
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Well, it seems many of us prefer not to be "left hanging" at the end of a story or novel... I wonder if any authors out there are taking notice?

Date Posted: 10/23/2009 11:59 AM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
Posts: 4,136
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It depends on what type of books I'm reading.  If it's a lighter book, or any kind of mystery, I want everything worked out, and I want a basically "good" ending.  Good may not mean happy, but it means it makes sense and justice was served.

If I'm reading a literary fiction or a short story, I can enjoy an ambiguous ending--I think ambiguity is often more like real life, and it makes you use your imagination.  On a side note, the way you mentally finish the story for yourself probably says something about your personality and life experience, so books like that are good for book group discussions.

Date Posted: 10/25/2009 3:06 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
Posts: 25,000
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I usually don't mind. I am thinking of Lois Lowry's The Giver. The ending is ambiguous. I don't know what became of the protagonist, but I can imagine a handful of possibilities.

While I don't find this type of ending to be "genius," I do like that it makes me think, consider all possible angles, and perhaps, forces me to come up with my own conclusion.

Date Posted: 10/26/2009 3:08 PM ET
Member Since: 8/11/2009
Posts: 53
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Date Posted: 10/26/2009 6:45 PM ET
Member Since: 12/26/2008
Posts: 1,958
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Sort of off topic, but if you want a movie with an ambiguous ending, go see "A Serious Man".  Just came out.  Really good movie!

Date Posted: 10/26/2009 6:47 PM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2009
Posts: 5,696
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I don't mind ambiguity, unless it's in a mystery or something like that.  As Laura said, it makes you think.