Many people remember E. B. White for his classic novel Charlotte’s Web, but his novel Stuart Little is pretty well-known too. It’s a classic book that parents often share with their kids. I know because I was one such kid. Even though I liked the book, one thing that bugged me-and still does-is the ending.
So the plot of the book is as follows: the Little family (yes, that’s their real name) gives birth to a son who happens to be a mouse. Despite this oddity, Stuart is very helpful around the house, and he forms a positive relationship with the rest of the family. Well, except for the cat Snowbell, of course. But eventually, Stuart meets a bird named Margalo and starts to bond with her. The two of them grow to become just as close as Wilbur was to Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web.
Unfortunately, Snowbell has it out for both Stuart and Margalo. So he plots with one of his cat friends to eat Margalo. When Margalo hears about this, she flees north. Stuart is heartbroken by the loss of his friend, and he sets out to find her. This, right here, is an important part of the story. It’s the big change that causes the main character to set out on his “hero’s journey” quest. He makes a choice that changes everything, and how he’s setting out with a goal: to find his beloved friend.
Over the course of the book, Stuart goes to many different locations and meets many different characters, but the underlying goal is to find Margalo. So how does the book end? With Stuart still heading north in search of Margalo. Because…yeah, that’s a totally logical conclusion.
I’ve done some research, and it appears that E. B. White’s health was failing, and he wasn’t sure if he’d get to write the rest of the book, so he wrapped it up in a rush. This seems to be a pretty good example of TV Tropes’ “Real Life Writes The Plot” trope:
But out of context, viewing the book just on its own? This ending is really weird. We spend the whole thing following Stuart Little and pondering the question of whether he’d be reunited with his friend, only to not get an answer to that question. Granted, it wouldn’t be the most exciting climax if Stuart just found Margalo and said “Hey, I missed you. Please come home!” and then took her home with him. But I can’t help wondering if E. B. White intended for Stuart to eventually find Margalo, only to find that she’d discovered a new life up north that was better for her, and that Stuart would be fine without her. That sounds like a pretty good message for a kids’ book to have-knowing when to let your friends go. But, sadly, the book doesn’t have any of that. At least it still had a lot of charm to it, much like Charlotte’s Web.
Oh, and there were also a couple of movies based on the book…that, from what I’ve read, barely even followed the plot at all.