If at the end of a story it turns out that it was all just a dream or a vision, why does that anger so many people? The whole thing itself was just a movie, or just a book! Why does such an ending make the story seem less valid?
I’d agree that such an ending is worthless if it’s used only as a “twisted ending” attempt; it has to have meaning to the story.
Also, I think audiences are more willing to accept the “it was all just a dream” ending in comedy, though I’m not quite sure why.
This whole issue is probably wrapped up in the subject of “the suspension of disbelief” … the psychological relationship between audiences and a work of art; usually some form of a fictional story.
In its article on “the suspension of disbelief”, Wikipedia says:
Gary Larson discussed the question with regard to his comic strip, The Far Side; he noted that readers wrote him to complain that a male mosquito referred to his “job” sucking blood when it is in fact the females that drain blood, but that the same readers accepted that the mosquitoes (in “fact”) live in houses, wear clothes, and speak English.
I’d love to read a good book exploring the suspension of disbelief… anyone know of any? I’m particularly interested in a more narrow subject: the relationship between an audience member and the main character. Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces provides some clues, but his book is more about the common similarities found in stories (heroes’ journeys) from around the world and doesn’t really seek to identify the psychological reasons the similarities exist in the first place. (He does sometimes, sort of, in The Power of Myth, but to me it seems like he just blathers about his personal guesses more than anything else.)
Something to think about…