Study Guide

The Man in the High Castle What's Up With the Ending?

By Philip K. Dick

What's Up With the Ending?

That's totally a fair question, because this book has a weird ending. Just to briefly recap, here's the ending position of the five major POV characters:

  • Tagomi freed Frank Frink, then had a heart attack.
  • Frank Frink went back to making jewelry.
  • Childan sells that authentic American jewelry with pride.
  • Baynes arrives in Germany and is protected by his new allies, some of the worst Nazis ever.
  • Juliana learns that her timeline is not the real one and walks out into the night.

So if you were expecting explosions and someone inventing time travel so they could go back in time and fix history, then this ending would be super-disappointing. It's more open-ended. Does Tagomi survive his heart attack and start resisting the Nazis more? Does Baynes figure out a way to fight against the SS after using them to prevent war with Japan? Does Childan ever read Nathanael West's Miss Lonelyhearts? We could probably think of about a million questions that are raised by this book but never answered.

This all goes double for Juliana, the last POV character we see. She mentions that she might try to find Frank again (15.154), though who knows if their marriage would work a second time around. And then she wanders out into the night. She might be headed towards her motel (15.160), but we have no idea if she ever arrives there. We have no idea what's coming next for her.

We guess this is the point. These characters are going through their lives without knowing what's coming. They don't know if they've made the world a better place or what evil they might face tomorrow. But as Baynes notes when he's helping the SS, "We go on, as we always have. From day to day. […] We can only control the end by making a choice at each step" (15.22). That's what the ending gives us: a reminder that life and history is something that happens bit by bit.

That's a great note to end on… but we still wish we knew what was going on with Juliana.

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