Stories with an Outcome of Failure

STORIES that have Outcome of Failure:

A Doll’s House: Nora’s decision to leave Torvald ends their marriage.

All That Jazz: The show (NY/LA) does not go on.

Amadeus: Salieri is ultimately able to contribute to Mozart’s death. However, it does not resolve his problem. Mozart’s music continues past his death. Salieri is praised for work which he knows is “mediocre.” He ultimately attempts suicide to resolve the problem, and he fails at that.

Blade Runner: Deckard does not capture/kill all of the replicants. Roy only dies because his time runs out. Rachael also lives and escapes with Deckard.

The Crucible: There are no witches in Salem. Those who claim to recall that they themselves or others have used witchcraft, lied to the court causing a great number of needless deaths.

El Mariachi: All the primary objective characters die, except for El Mariachi, whose outlook on life is irrevocably changed for the worse.

The Glass Menagerie: Jim, the gentleman caller, is engaged to someone else and will never be calling again; Tom follows in his father’s footsteps and abandons his mother and sister, leaving them “a mother deserted, [and] an unmarried sister who’s crippled and has no job!”

The Graduate: Although everyone in the story sees great things for Ben’s future, he ultimately fails them all (evidenced by the horrified faces at the church), by throwing away the future they had in mind for him and running away with Elaine.

The Great Gatsby: Nick and Jordan have a parting of the ways:

“There was one thing to be done before I left, an awkward, unpleasant thing that perhaps had better have been let alone. But I wanted to leave things in order and not just trust that obliging and indifferent sea to sweep my refuse away. I saw Jordan Baker and talked over and around what had happened to us together, and what had happened afterward to me, and she lay perfectly still, listening, in a big chair….

For just a minute I wondered if I wasn’t making a mistake then I thought it all over again quickly and got up to say good-by.

‘Nevertheless you did throw me over,’ said Jordan suddenly. ‘You threw me over on the telephone. I don’t give a damn about you now, but it was a new experience for me, and I felt a little dizzy for a while.'”

Nick reflects on Gatsby’s failure to realize his dream of obtaining Daisy:

“I went over and looked at that huge incoherent failure of a house once more…And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.”

Once Wilson realizes Myrtle is having an affair, he attempts to hold onto her, which results in failure:

“He had discovered that Myrtle had some sort of life apart from him in another world…

‘I’ve got my wife locked in up there,’ explained Wilson calmly. ‘She’s going to stay there till the day after to-morrow, and then we’re going to move away.’

…A moment later she rushed out into the dusk, waving her hands and shouting — before he could move from his door the business was over.

…Myrtle Wilson, her life violently extinguished, knelt in the road and mingled her thick dark blood with the dust.”

Hamlet: In the effort to bring down Claudius and restore balance in the kingdom, many lives are lost–including all those of the royal family.

Harold and Maude: Mrs. Chasen, the psychiatrist, Uncle Victor, and the priest fail to persuade Harold to adopt a conventional lifestyle that they would feel comfortable with–and which he would have to pretend to enjoy.

Heavenly Creatures: Despite removing “one of the main obstacles in my path,” Pauline and her object of desire, Juliet, are separated at story’s end:

“A SERIES OF CARDS explains what happened subsequently:

‘Too young for the death penalty, they were sent to separate prisons to be “Detained at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.” […] It was a condition of their release that they never meet again.'”

(Walsh & Jackson, p. 216)

Lolita: In the end, most of the objective characters fail in their goal of keeping up appearances. They had been posing as someone other than that which they really were. Humbert cannot maintain his facade as the suave and confident stepfather–he’s eventually revealed as a cunning pedophile and later, a maniacal, boozy wreck, ” . . . bristly chin, my bum’s blood-shot eyes” (Nabokov 263). Early on, Charlotte had pretended to be the epitome of the cultured, upper-class suburban matron, an act that the worldly Humbert immediately saw through. On the surface, Quilty is the sophisticated and world-renowned playwright, but in reality he is also a bloated and drugged-out pervert. Lolita’s character is like a wooden Russian doll: one opens it only to find a different one, and another inside that and yet another inside that–all becoming smaller and smaller until there is only an empty wooden chamber left. In the beginning she appears to be a normal and healthy preadolescent. After her mother’s death, Humbert is amazed (and enthralled) to find out that she has had some previous juvenile sexual escapades, and thrilled when she initially encourages his advances. In public he has her act the role of his happy, insouciant, young daughter. In private she must act the little “pubescent concubine” (Nabokov 136) to fulfill his insatiable sexual urges. Before and after she would be (not surprisingly) whiny, bored, sulky, “sprawling, droopy, dopey-eyed . . . mentally . . . a disgustingly conventional little girl” ( Nabokov 136). In the inner sanctum of her mind and heart “there was in her a garden and twilight, and a palace gate-dim and adorable regions which happened to be lucidly and absolutely forbidden to me . . .” (Nabokov 259). Lolita, denied a normal upbringing, has to survive by assuming different roles, failing at the only one she should have played–that of a happy-go-lucky young girl.

Othello: The characters fail to recognize and stop Iago’s malicious scheme against them. As a result of this failure: Othello and Desdemona’s marriage is destroyed; Othello goes mad from Iago’s insinuations and murders the naive Desdemona; Roderigo, tricked into trying to kill Cassio, is then murdered by Iago; Emilia is murdered by Iago when she reveals his treachery; Othello commits suicide when he learns of Desdemona’s innocence; Iago himself is sentenced to torture and execution contrary to his plans for his future.

The Piano Lesson: Boy Willie’s efforts to eradicate his family’s slave history by buying the land of their former owner ends in failure when he leaves the piano with Berniece. He returns to Mississippi without enough money to buy Sutter’s land which would have enabled him to quit being a sharecropper and own a farm of his own.

Platoon: From the very first scene of the film, as black rubber body bags are loaded onto planes that have just unloaded new recruits, America’s success in the war is put into question. Throughout the film, we experience the platoon’s frustrations, anxieties, and fears of fighting an invisible enemy that the platoon seems to have little to no impact against. And we are finally left with not only the platoon, but almost the entire 25th infantry, overrun by the enemy sustaining enormous loss of lives. In the final scene the dead aren’t even in body bags. The surrounding jungle floor and the entire military compound are strewn with the bodies of American and Viet Cong soldiers, and the Americans have obviously gotten the worst of it. This is definitely a war America is not winning.

Quills: No one is able to envision a way to stop The Marquis from disseminating his stories: “In the last scene, the boxes containing the body parts of the Marquis tremble with pleasure. One hand snakes loose from its box . . . and begins to write” (Back cover–Dramatists Play Service, Inc.).

Rain Man: Charlie does not get half of the inheritance that he expected. He doesn’t even get custody of Raymond.

Reservoir Dogs: The robbers fail to escape with the diamonds; the undercover cop has apprehended the gang but is finished off when he identifies himself as the “rat.” Everyone dies a violent death.

Sula: A future for the community of the Bottom is never realized:

It was sad, because the Bottom had been a real place. These young ones kept talking about the community, but they left the hills to the poor, the old, the stubborn-and the rich white folks. Maybe it hadn’t been a community, but it had been a place. Now there weren’t any places left, just separate houses with separate televisions and separate telephones and less and less dropping by. (Morrison, 1973, p. 166)

The Sun Also Rises: The objective characters fail to find meaning and fulfillment in their lives. This failure is particularly well depicted in the character of Lady Brett Ashley. She changes her amoral ways and begins to acquire a conscience, but her potential for peace and contentment will always remain unfulfilled:

It is unclear whether or not Jake’s insights and Brett’s final moral act give meaning to the lives of these exiles. During their Bayonne fishing trip, Jake’s friend Bill Gorton sings a song about “pity and irony,” and that seems to be the overall tone of the book, and especially the ending: pity for the personal anguish and aimless searching of these people, but ironic detachment toward characters whose lives and situations are, at best, at least as comical as they are tragic. (Neilson 6350)

Sunset Boulevard: Joe fails to make it as a Hollywood screenwriter and ends up murdered; Norma fails to return to the screen and goes completely mad; Betty doesn’t finish developing the story with Joe as she envisioned; Max doesn’t implement steps to stop Norma from destroying Joe and herself.

To Kill a Mockingbird: The court demands its witnesses to give their honest recollection of what happened on November 21 at the Ewell’s shack in order that justice may be served. This goal is not achieved; Bob and Mayella Ewell lie about what they remember, and as they have lied to the sheriff, Heck Tate, his memory is biased; Tom Robinson tells what really happened but is still found guilty of a crime he did not commit.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: The fantasy of George and Martha’s “son” is exposed. This is not because their son has “died”–his death could easily perpetuate the myth. It’s the fact that Nick (and ostensibly Honey) come to understand that there never was or could be a child of George and Martha’s. “NICK (To George; quietly): You couldn’t have . . . any? GEORGE: We couldn’t. MARTHA (A hint of communion in this): We couldn’t.”

Washington Square: The one man Catherine desires for a prospective husband turns out to be a bounder; she turns down all other offers of marriage and remains an “old maid.” In his introduction to the novella, Mark Le Fanu comments on the irony of the outcome: “The outcome of the story is terrible, if terrible describes Catherine Sloper’s proud refusal to compromise, and the consequent penalty of being given over to spinsterhood” (x-xi).

The Wild Bunch: Though the Wild Bunch receive gold from Mapache in return for the guns, and it turns out to be their last big heist, they don’t escape to enjoy it. They are killed, as are Mapache and the bounty hunters. Angel’s hope of liberating his people from oppression does live on in the form of Sykes and Thornton, though the gold remains buried in a place unknown. Thornton fails to either kill the Wild Bunch or take their bodies back as promised (though he allows his bounty hunters to try), and becomes an outlaw again.

Excerpted from
Dramatica Story Development Software