In the novel Orlando by Virginia Woolf the novel ends the day it was published with a lack of closure on Orlando’s story. In a world that’s built on the “Once upon a time” beginnings and “Happily ever after” endings, it’s a truly revolutionary modernist work. Today, we still struggle with what we are satisfied by in a narrative.
With the cliff hanger endings like the Sopranos finale, and an unsatisfying wrap up when a story is cut by a network- Pushing Daisies, Fire-Fly, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Veronica Mars- it is hard to understand how the writer wanted us to interpret a piece. For people there is a need for an ending. However, an ambiguous ending can hold potential for interpretation of a work and that’s what makes it stand on it’s own once it’s out of the writer’s hands. This is talked about in the Nerdist Writer’s Panel Podcast.
A reader can take away some grand meaning from a piece of work that the writer in no way intended and one can be disappointed to hear their interpretation is wrong. That is why it can be best to have an ambiguous ending and not know what the writers intent was because it’s no longer theirs. Once it finished they could never do an ending justice by bringing it up and trying to satisfy the masses.
Format is everything. Just as Woolf’s writing style changes between each century it also is able to summarize time on a page or draw it out for a chapter. With television writers, they can also skip over time between episodes or winter and summer breaks but they need to connect all the episodes in an arch, or at least attempt to.
For a character like Orlando that can live forever, the novel’s ending is very thought provoking. With the stroke of midnight we are left wondering if Orlando changed sex again or simply died and disappeared or just went on into the New Year.
With new format of Social Media and the internet it changes the form of television and creates a new medium to tell stories through web series and transmedia. This dialogue with the format challenges the interpretation of a story.
The novel Orlando is a strong example of a form of work taking on a life of it’s own with the perception an individual reader has from the work.
Word count: 406
Woolf, Virgina. Orlando: A biography 1928