Asterios Polyp, Or How The Ending Made Me Angry

 

Despite what the title of this reflection may say, I do not hate Asterios Polyp overall. I found the art style and the themes interesting, got a kick out of the references to Greek/Roman mythology and the duality themes, and I found nearly all of the characters interesting to follow (despite the rather little development they undergo as characters; only Asterios really changes his ways in the stereotypical “man goes on life-changing journey and realizes he was wrong” arc), with Ursula Major and Hana being my personal favorites. However, I was angered by the ending of the novel: when Asterios and Hana are reunited at her home and reflecting on what they can possibly have again in a relationship, an asteroid comes out of nowhere on the next page heading straight for their house. And…that’s it; we don’t know whether they live or not because it cuts to the Major family enjoying a shooting star in the tree house.

This ending reminds of the endings in which you have a character waking up at the end and having everything being “all a dream” or just straight up killing everything to tie up loose ends. To me, if I may use an Odyssey reference as the novel is chock full of them, it’s like Odysseus and Penelope are reunited and a tidal wave wipes them out. You can’t just have all this drama and all this character development for Asterios realizing needs to go back to Hana and make amends with her, only for them to die without any real conclusion to their character arcs.

Yes, I know the asteroid reference was mentioned very early on in the book by a minor character and maybe this is can be interpreted as life being meaningless in the end and that we’ll all die despite our hopes for a better future, but if you need to drop an asteroid on your characters in order to convey that message, I think you need to re-evaluate what you were trying to build up in your book.

  1 comment for “Asterios Polyp, Or How The Ending Made Me Angry

  1. jperez
    October 26, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    I understand your frustration with the ending. I too had a similar reaction when I first read it. It felt incomplete; it was as if Asterios’s journey was for nothing. However, as I reflected on the text, I realized that the ending actually made sense. The theme of duality plays throughout the text; in fact, the story is told by Asterios’s dead twin brother Ignazio. In many ways, Asterios wonders throughout what his brother would have been if he were alive, and if Asterios is living the life Ignazio was suppose to have. But, then Asterios meets Hana. She becomes his other half; the half he cannot live without. This is best demonstrated when Hana tells Asterios about her dream where Asterios is smothering her with a pillow. As she describes the dream, the dream is portrayed in a womb-shaped space, which is reminiscent of Asterios and Ignazio’s only shared space. His journey thus becomes a journey to reclaim his other half. When the asteroid hits, Asterios and Hana die together as a whole; he is no longer incomplete.

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