There’s been a lot of buzz on the Red wedding. A few people had commented that they would drop the series because they can’t find anybody to root for anymore, or that the universe is too bleak to be worth their emotional investment.
Who can blame them? We mostly read for escapism. That’s why romance with their assured happy endings is the biggest selling genre. We read to renew our faith in the values we hold dear. So what is the point subjecting ourself to fiction that assaults our dearly held notions of a moral just world?
I think, there’s some virtue albeit insignificant in persevering through a bleak universe. Basically, it’s a matter of faith. The reader has to find faith in themselves to go on. Rather than depending on the book promises of a happy ending, the reader has to generate hope for themselves in the midst of the bleak world they are reading. And I believe that, in itself, is a worthy exercise for the reader.
When we do good, most do it with some expectation of a reward earthly or heavenly. And likewise when people do bad, we generally expect punishment. But in many places in the world right now, these expectations are not quite matched. The simple notions of heaven and hell, or even the concept of Karma, get quickly dismantled. The courage to be ethical in the face of adversity and lopsided rewards isn’t so easy after all.
If you have no guarantee for a happy ending, do you give up for the self-serving side of ethics? Why be moral? You will find the answers to these to be quite personal, and I dare say, important to figure out for yourself. Bleak universes allow us a chance to grapple with those questions intimately.