Why can’t we leave well-enough alone?

HeathcliffI recently snatched this book from the giveaway rack at my local public library so I could add it to my ever-growing Wuthering Heights collection. This novel, published in 1979, addresses Heathcliff’s three-year absence from the moors. (A quick overview for those of you who aren’t familiar with WH: In the novel, Heathcliff disappears for three years. He leaves penniless, but comes back wealthy and gentlemanly. Bronte never explains where he was or how he got his money. It’s all part of the allure.) I bought this book because of my dedicated WH nerd-fandom, and I’ll probably read it, but it also made me question something that I’ve wondered for a long time: Why are we, as readers, so discontent with ambiguity? Why do we feel like we have to know everything?

Why can’t we leave well-enough alone?

I recently heard one theory that people long so much for a happily-ever-after that they’ll keep reading until they get one. Maybe that’s it. Or maybe we just feel entitled to get the rest of the story. Or maybe we’ve become less imaginative, and therefore less inclined to fill in the blanks ourselves.

Ambiguity has never bothered me. Because that’s how real life is. Rarely do events present themselves with clear beginnings and ends. It’s more of a continual progression.

Then again, maybe that’s the same reason why people don’t want ambiguity. Maybe we want the rest of the story because our own beginnings and ends are so vague. Maybe we’ll take resolution any way we can get it, even if it robs us of some of the mystery. I can’t really argue with that.

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