Study Guide

Beneath a Marble Sky What's Up With the Ending?

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What's Up With the Ending?

John Shors chose to end his book like he began it, by quoting poetry:

You know, Shah Jahan, life and youth, wealth and glory,
they all drift away in the current of time.
You strove, therefore, to perpetuate only the sorrow of your heart.
Let the splendor of diamond, pearl and ruby vanish.
Only let this one teardrop, this Taj Mahal,
glisten spotlessly bright on the cheek of time,
forever and ever.
—Rabindranath Tagore

It's a very sweet way to close our story, isn't it? Rabindranath Tagore was a super-famous, Nobel Prize-winning Bengali poet from around the turn of the 20th century who was renowned for his spiritual poems and other writings. In what sounds like a letter to Shah Jahan (you know, like, the guy in our book, Jahanara's father), Tagore writes about what the Taj Mahal was, and what it represents.

What Tagore is kind of saying is that Shah Jahan had the wisdom to know what was truly important in his life: not his wealth and glory, but his love for his wife and his sorrow over her death.

The Taj Mahal isn't great just because it's made out of precious stone, or just because it's an impressive building, or even just because it has an interesting history. It's great because through the art of architecture, Shah Jahan transformed what was most human about him—his love and sorrow—into something timeless, something we can all experience and be moved by.

Turns out that's also the big theme of Shors's book. Pretty clever, eh?

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