The Garden of Forking Paths
What’s Up With the Ending?
Borges has an a-maze-ing way with endings. (Shut up. Puns are awesome.) He wraps up every little loose end to his labyrinthine narrative in the space of a single paragraph – and in this case, there's a lot to wrap up. What's his secret? Well, he's planted little clues to the resolution of the mystery throughout the story, so by the time he reveals the truth at the end, all he has to do is give us one key sentence to have everything come together. The newspaper-perusing Chief, the gun with the single bullet, the phone book – though we've practically forgotten them by now (we've been distracted, just as Yu Tsun has, by Stephen Albert's fascinating lecture), all of these elements come into play in the story's denouement.
Were you surprised when you found out that Yu Tsun killed Stephen Albert just to send a message to The Chief that the English weapons were stored in the town of Albert? We sure were.
It's impressive the way Borges can keep us in suspense until the penultimate sentence, and then, just as we're gasping in awe of his genius, nail us with one last emotional line about Yu Tsun's "infinite penitence and sickness of heart" (63). Like we said, a-freaking-mazing. This is the kind of ending that makes you want to turn right back to page one and read the whole story over again.