I could not believe my ears! To clarify it even more, I pressed, "The one where the kid dies and they end up living in poverty?" He said, "Yes! The kid dying was such a surprise -- I never saw that coming!"
Well, what the heck? I could not believe it! I mean, really? The message in that book struck me as something like, "There's no hope, the world's going down in a handbasket, and you'll never be able to do anything to change what's wrong in the world." Nihilism in the extreme! A little bit like Romeo and Juliet - in the end, everybody dies, nothing is accomplished. Or Julius Caesar - everybody dies, nothing is accomplished. Maybe even Macbeth (although I do give Macbeth a little credit for being unique in Shakespeare and not killing himself.)
One of the reasons I love Gladiator so much, aside from Russel Crowe just being a BEAST, is that the hero died a heroic death, but it ACCOMPLISHED SOMETHING! He didn't die in vain, he killed the bad guy with him. Another example would be the Alamo, where they didn't have much hope of defeating the Mexican armies but they still bought Sam Houston precious time and it made a difference. Again, nobody at the Alamo died in vain. Rocky would be another good one: although I've never seen the movie, as I understand it, he could have just lost early to make the other guy look good, but instead he did his absolute best. He still didn't win, and he didn't change the world, but he lost with dignity and honor. Or, for another Russel Crowe movie, Robin Hood. Even though King John Softsword didn't sign the Magna Carta, Robin Hood didn't give up, didn't stop fighting. He didn't even die in that one!
I think to wrap up this post, a quote from my favorite character in my favorite of all movies says it all:
For anyone who doesn't know, that's Sam Gamgee, The Two Towers."There's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo! And it's worth fighting for."