I saw some posts on Facebook recently on romantic novels and the HEA (for anyone uninitiated, that notorious Happy Ever After).
The posters said that there had been some romantic novels released recently without the obligatory HEA, and because of that, some Indie Authors of romantic fiction had included the assurance that ‘this novel has an HEA’.
Romantic novels, of course, are notorious as a genre where the readers insist on a happy ending. That is why, I gather, ‘Gone With The Wind’ and ‘Rebecca’ are often precluded from them – one has the hero leaving the heroine, and it seems in the second the hero makes no explicit love declaration (I seem somehow to have missed that omission).
For my own part, I have long argued that this insistence on the HEA is one of the reasons that romances are not generally taken seriously as literature, that and the tendency to leave ugly details out of the stories.
This if often defined as a necessary part of writing a genre which is by definition escapist.
Personally, I have never seen why a conditional happy ending or what it seems is known as the ‘HFN’ – Happy For Now – is often regarded as unacceptable.
After all, even in a Hearts and Rainbows traditional happy endng it is impossible to depict a limitless timing. One assumes that generally (not inevitably) the hero and heroine are meant to be mortal; therefore, they will in the future either die early, or age. Either way, they must eventually shuffle off this mortal coil. Presumably, the average reader would rather not envisage the hero and heroine in their declining years, with the hero, perhaps, forced to bolster up his wild curly black locks with a toupe, and the heroine sneaking on ‘controlling’ underwear to give the illusion of a sylph like figure..
Joking apart, what actually strikes me most about the Happy Ever After is that it only has to apply to the hero and the heroine. That might seem a comment on the obvious; but in a way, perhaps it reflects the ideology of our era?
Just as the Grail legends reflect the frames of reference of the mediaeval mind, the ideology that underpinned feudalism – perhaps the Happy Ever After for an individual couple in romantic fiction is an indication of the ideology of capitalism – individualism – and therefore is equally a finite form of literature, at least in its present form?
It is no accident, surely, that the first romantic novel – ‘Pamela’ by Samuel Richardson – was written during the era of the rise of the manufacturing class as the dominant force in society.
Love stories, of course, go back to ancient times and hopefully will still be about far in the future; but as society evolves, how long the modern romance will continue in its present form is an intriguing question.
At the moment, it certainly is the most popular form of fiction, accounting for something like fifty per cent of the sales of ebooks on Amazon. But what have often been seen as the rigid boundaries surrounding the genre may be changing, as is mentioned in this article: –
This is embarrassing! I have just tried to get that link to come out six times, and I think I’m going to have to admit defeat and ask anyone interested to paste it into the search bar…