I just recently finished reading the Dark Tower series, and was left very disappointed by the way it ended. I loved the first 4 books, and thought the 5th was as good as the first 4, but that it was almost like the first book in a separate trilogy consisting of the last 3 books.
First of all, the coda at the very end. The whole premise, from what I gathered, was that the Dark Tower was the lynchpin not only of our world, but of all the worlds and universes, and that if it fell, all of existence would fall with it. But yet when Roland finally gets their, rather than being something of that sort, it is a monument of sorts to Roland’s life. To me this implies that it is Roland himself, rather than the Dark Tower, that is the center of the universe, which means he never really had to reach the Dark Tower in the first place.
Second, I don’t really see how what happens to Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy as anything at all like a happy ending. They all basically forgot all their experiences in mid world, and end up living their lives in what seems like a false parallel universe. If it is really all about the journey rather than the ending (as King himself claims before the coda), how is that a reward that they forget all their experiences?
I have my idea on how I would have liked it to end, but I would like to hear other opinions first.
I seem to be one of few people who thought the ending was perfect. I only met one other person who liked the ending, and I though he was an idiot so I’m not sure what that says about me. I finished them years ago so I’m a little hazy on the details.
The story is not about a dark tower(was Moby Dick about a whale)? Its about a guy doomed to repeat a journey until he gets it right, i.e. don’t screw over everyone you love for some higher purpose. Don’t use other people’s love as a tool only to further your own goals. The end/new beginning hints that this time he might get it right.
I’d need to read the last few chapters again, but I seem to remember having the impression that that was the point. Think what he had to do get there. Was it worth it? Yes? Start over and try again 'til you learn.
The impression I got is that Roland is pretty much the only person in any possible universe who could ever reach the tower and go inside - not even the Crimson King could breach its doors, which is why he settled on collapsing it and unmaking the multiverse instead.
Roland isn’t the center, but he’s a person who exists to perform a task that no lesser mortal could hope to achieve, and the reason that he has to keep repeating that task over and over again is because he doesn’t understand who he is and what he’s supposed to achieve. To Roland, the fact that he saves the entire universe is secondary to reaching the Tower. That’s why he left his friends to die at Jericho Hill, why he let the first Jake fall to his death, and why he let Eddie, the second Jake, and even Oy give their lives for him. Once he finally learns the importance of what he’s been tasked with doing, and does it right, then his journey will end and he’ll get what he was looking for by questing for the Tower in the first place. When he sets off again at the end of the series, his past has already changed to the point that he still has the Horn of Gilead in his possession, so he’s gradually getting better with every trip he takes - maybe the time before this he left his guns behind, or didn’t pull the second Jake back into Mid-World, and maybe the next time he lives it out he’ll be able to pull Susan Delgado from the flames.
…or maybe not. Who knows?
I quite liked the ending as well, I think it made up admirably for the pissant bullshit of the last couple of books, like Stephen’s self-insert Mary-Sue bollocks, and the hamfisted references to current pop culture like Harry Potter.
I agree about Jake’s second death (the fall while chasing Walter) and Cuthbert and Alain being sacrifices. But when Eddie died, that wasn’t Roland sacrificing Eddie, it was, ironically, Roland failing with his aim when he missed the right spot shooting Pimli Prentiss. When Jake died the third time, it wasn’t Roland’s amoral decision making, it was Roland’s (and Stephen King’s) bad right hip that gave out. And with Oy, it was Roland’s decision to leave Patrick on watch, not some moral failing of Roland’s that lead to Oy’s death.
What I picture in my head as a better, if not the “right” ending, would be Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy retiring to live the good life in Calla Bryn Sturgis, with Roland getting the wanderlust and heading out again for parts unknown. If Roland had aimed a little better when he shot Pimli Prentiss, that could very well have been he ending, as King himself acknowledged.
I agree with Superdude, what other ending could there be? Roland couldn’t retire happily to die in his sleep, he couldn’t wander off into the sunset, he is the ultimate hero going into the Dark Tower, the thing that holds all of reality together. What was going to be behind the door? God? Roland?
It made the perfect end to the tale to have Roland back where he started. I agree that part of the loop was that he got better each time and that one time he would be good enough to complete his quest. But another way to think of it, and the way I like to picture it, is that Roland is part of the Dark Tower and his quest can never be completed. It his actions spread across worlds and time that keep the tower standing. His doom is to keep repeating the loop, no matter what actions he takes.
Ok. Maybe instead of wandering off into the sunset, Roland ends up having to stay at the top of the Dark Tower. It isn’t so much Roland’s personal fate that I didn’t like, it was what happened to Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy that I really didn’t like. I honestly do see them retiring to live a happy life in Calla Bryn Sturgis. It’s also nit that Roland has to relive his journey, but that he drags the whole universe (and presumably his ka-tet) with him, and unlike Roland, they don’t even have a say in the matter. At least I can picture the above scenario, with the ka-tet retiring to the Callas, as how it happens now that Roland has his horn.
Don’t forget that besides the personal growth and doing it right thing, the job is not done. All the cut lines must be fixed.
I don’t know how King has it imagined, but in my head I picture each repeat as different not just in the way Roland acts, but also the path he takes. Each time he travels a different line and forms a different ka-tet. The journey into the desert is the divergence point. Each time the man in black goes a different way, and the gunslinger follows.
I can also imagine that Roland’s past never existed. Roland was a construct of the Tower sent to that point in time to fix the tower. Or perhaps the real Roland died and the Tower replaced him with the gunslinger who could fix the universe.
Lord, don’t get me started. I lovelovelove the cyclical ending. I thought it was perfect. But…
After all those books, after all that pursuing, Randall Flagg…the Randall Flagg…dies like that? Killed by a minor character? Without Roland’s involvement in any way?
The fearsome Crimson King, the final adversary, turns out to be a doddering senile old coot who prances around screeching EEEEEEEEEE?! Good grEEEEEEf.
And how extremely fortunate that Roland bumps into Patrick right before he reaches the Tower! Thank heavens for deus ex machinas.
And all of that aside, I’m totally annoyed at this bit from King directed at people who want to know how it ends for Roland. It’s in the coda, right before the big reveal.
FUCK YOU, Stephen King. I enjoyed the journey you led me on - I experienced all the highs and lows of your creations. It is perfectly reasonable to want to experience the joy of the journey AND the destination. I want to know what happened to your characters because I care about them. So not only have you insulted my motives as a reader, you’ve apparently decided that since I want to know what happens to Roland, my sex life must suck too. Lovely.
Let’s take a hypothetical. Roland shoots Pimli Prentiss square in the head, killing him instantly. This way Eddie doesn’t die. Even Stephen King (the author) says that if only this had happened, things would have turned out differently. Maybe then when it comes time to save Stephen King (the character) Eddie is driving instead of Mrs. Tassenbaum, and they get their a little earlier so that Jake doesn’t have to die either. And of course later, on the night Mordred attacks, someone other than Patrick Danville is on the watch and sees Mordred coming on time, so Oy doesn’t die their either. Isn’t all this a plausible path to the ending?
I got the impression that King was taking a cue from Tolkien there. Evil isn’t majestic and terrifying, it’s banal. The Fellowship didn’t march up to the doors of Barad-Dur and challenge Sauron to combat, it was his own hubris in binding his power to the One Ring that lead to his downfall. Sauron doesn’t lead his armies to Gondor, he lets orcs and Nazgul do the heavy lifting. Likewise, the King acts through intermediaries because he himself is weak and frail, and Flagg, the Great and Powerful Oz, is killed off by a minor character who would otherwise be beneath his notice.
Yeah, that author’s note really pissed me off too.
But I was also pissed off that so much that was promised never occurred. The whole tie-in with INSOMNIA being handwaved away as a false dream or whatever–th’ fuck is that other than pure laziness. Why spend all that time setting up all the inter-book connections…and then not use any of them (or most of them)?
And the worst part is that, after all that cosmic grandeur, the best he could come up with for Detta, Jake and Eddie is…a world where Jesse Jackson was elected*?? What a pissant, small way to try to score some sort of sad political shot. And I’d be saying the exact same thing if he was a Repub and Bush 1 got a second term beating Clinton. It’s cheap.
I don’t mind the recurring ending (athough it would have been nice if he’d given us a hint/foreshadowed it sooner) as much as I really object to the last 1/3d of the book from the author’s note back.
*Or something like that–maybe Gore won instead, whatever.
My guess is he realized that nothing he could come up with would live up to the constant, steady build-up over seven books. So he tried to handwave it away, then got defensive when folks called him on it.
Sad thing is the actual ending (Roland’s, not any of the other characters because damn were they lame) is still one of the better ones he’s written.
That said, I think Roland walking into the tower may well have served as a fine ending, but people have to know.
It was actually Gary Hart who beat Reagan in the 1980 election. As I mentioned, it’s not Roland’s ending that I didn’t like, but the way the ka-tet ended up. Instead of Eddie and Susannah Dean, Jake Chambers, and Oy the bumbler, we get some pseudo version of them, Eddie and Jake Toren, and presumably a Susannah Toren. That is actually worse, since instead of an alternate reality Eddie and Jake, this was the actual Susannah Dean, who looses not her legs, but her entire identity. I wish Roland had aimed a little better when he shot Pimli. I can’t state that enough.