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Short Stories: Alternate Endings

By Edited Jan 24, 2014 1 1

Life's Alternate

All great short stories begin with the same foundation, a plot, round characters, details, suspense, a protagonist and offer elements to make a full story. Although, it is the ending of a story that sets one story a part from another. The author can end their story in favor of the reader, the stories protagonist or themselves. A great ending does not necessarily have to please the reader, but to simply cause the reader to think about whether it does justice to the protagonist or the story . “Metamorphosis,” “Death by Landscape,” and “A Hunger Artist” are short stories that leave the reader with the question “What if?” This question leaves room in the reader's mind to create an alternate ending to the story through answering unanswered questions. The greatest challenge in writing a story is not the development or the details, but the ending of one’s story has to complete the entire story and continue to stay in the same sequence as the story.



Franz Kafka

One can assume that Kafka used real events of his life to use as inspiration in his stories and “Metamorphosis” is no exception. This story is about a young man named Gregor. Gregor is a traveling salesman that is the sole bread-winner of his family. He lives with and cares for his mother and father along with his sister, Grete. Even though he cares for his father, the two have a brutal relationship; all the while he and Grete are very close. On a random morning Gregor wakes up as some sort of bug, maybe a beetle. After being discovered as a beetle, he loses his job and spends the rest of his life locked in his now empty bedroom, secluded. In the end Gregor is killed by an apple his father threw at him, after his death the family moves and continues on with their lives taking care of themselves and forgetting about Gregor.  Kafka’s ending is symbolic, interesting and in ways harsh, but it leaves the reader wanting a better outcome for Gregor.

Another ending I would give “Metamorphosis” is ending the story with Gregor waking up from all the events that occurred throughout the story.  He wakes up from the dream when he hears his father’s voice calling for him outside the door. His first reaction is jumping out of bed to see if he was no longer a bug; after he sees he’s no longer a pest, he reflects on the dream. Realizing now that he needs to face his father and stand up for himself, he also realizes he values his job solely for his family, not himself. In the end he comes out the room and simply asks his father: “Are you proud of me?” With his father remaining quiet, he tells the family he will no long be the family’s backbone that they can fend for themselves. When his sister asks where is this all coming from he tells them of his dream. Interrupted by his boss entering the room, Gregor goes to his room, packs his things and begins to leave. He hands his boss what he was supposed to deliver and then quits. Finally he looks back at his father and tells him hopefully you’ll be able to answer that question one day, and then he leaves.

In my opinion I believe this ending is just as fitting as Kafka’s because it leaves the story on a lighter note. The reader gets to see Gregor stand up for himself for the first time since being introduced to Gregor. In this alternate ending both Gregor and Kafka’s value to their family would increase, more with their fathers. Kafka never had the strength to face his father, like Gregor and with a finish such as this one both he and Gregor would leave with a peace of mind; it’s not so much about getting a reaction from his father, but that he no longer has to live with this burden. 

Margaret Atwood

Death by Landscape

Margaret Atwood

“Death by Landscape” is a story that is structured around a tragic event that occurs near the end of the story; the ending of this story makes this story both a mystery and a tragedy. Lois is a woman who lives her life smothering herself with artwork of landscapes. The reader is introduced to Lois when she is moving into an apartment and looking at her pictures her mind goes back to her past. Growing up Lois went to a summer camp up until the age of fourteen. There she met Lucy, when they left camp the two became closer through letters. Lois learns Lucy is unhappy; her parents are now divorced, she is forbidden to see her boyfriend and even coming from money, it did not buy happiness. Since it was their last year at camp, they went on an expedition, Lucy and Lois went up the mountain without the rest of the girls. Before the two came down Lucy states she has to urinate, she walks away and Lois hears a scream, Lucy never came back or was ever found, her story was forever unfinished.

            I would change the ending to where the story is no longer a mystery to the reader. When Lucy walks away from Lois and then screams, it would be because she is surprised by her boyfriend. Lucy would run away with him to escape her life that she has grown to hate. On the day Lois is reminiscing about her past, she would go to the mailbox and find a letter addressed to her from a name she does not recognize, but she sees the “L” symbol she only used with Lucy. Reading the letter Lois sees it is Lucy, it is an apology letter and a letter explaining what really happened and what became of her.

I believe with this ending the reader is not left questioning Lois’s sanity, it explains her seeing Lucy in the pictures. This story would leave the reader at peace with the ending. Lucy deserves to tell her story just as much as Lois gets to express hers. With this ending it acts as the missing puzzle piece to the puzzle, ending it this way brings closure, closure to Lois as well as the reader.


A Hunger Artist

Franz Kafka

Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist,” is his own destiny or story written through his eyes in a creative way. The story “A Hunger Artist,” is about one’s purpose in life and identification. The Hunger Artist is a man who fasts in the public, at the beginning he is entertainment to the public eye. They place him in a cage and record how many days he has fasted. Then the excitement dies and he is forgotten until the day of his death when he is discovered. His lasts words were: “because I couldn’t find the food I liked. If I had found it, believe me, I should have made no fuss and stuffed myself like you or anyone else.” (424) He then died and was buried and quickly replaced by a bear.

               The ending I would suggest is the hunger artist still dies in the end, but his death would not be in vain. I would begin by changing his last words to him saying: “All I wanted was to be perfect…the perfect entertainer and remembered by all.” Years would pass and once again he would be forgotten along with the rest of the show. When the town decides to open a historic museum, an area would be dedicated to those who broke or set records in the town. In a clear case the hunger artist cage was placed inside, beside it was the board with the last recorded several days he fasted, a picture of him and a plaque with his story. The overseer, now an older man brought his grandson to see the exhibit and told him this man was the perfect entertainer. This is a fitting ending because the hunger artist simply wanted society’s approval and attention. Having him recognized after his death connects him as a character to his creator, Kafka.


 Each of these alternate endings was created from the perspective of the reader. These are better options because a story should leave the reader feeling that it was worth their time to read it. Now the reader can walk away with fewer questions. These endings are in favor of the protagonist, author and most importantly the reader. Each new ending completes the sequence of events, the short story.




Mar 28, 2013 10:50am
I love stories that make me think of alternate endings. Thumbs up for your article!
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