I'm Thinking of Ending Things Summary & Study Guide

Iain Reid
This Study Guide consists of approximately 42 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of I'm Thinking of Ending Things.
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I'm Thinking of Ending Things Summary & Study Guide Description

I'm Thinking of Ending Things Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid.

The following version of the novel was used to create this study guide: Reid, Iain. I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Gallery/Scout Press, reprint edition, March 21, 2017.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid is the final journal of Jake, a man suffering with a serious mental illness. It is reasonable that his mental illness stems from a multiple personality disorder or schizophrenia. The manuscript is found next to Jake’s body after he kills himself in the school where he worked as a custodian for more than 30 years. At the beginning of the novel, it appears that the story is being narrated by Jake’s girlfriend as the two travel to meet Jake’s parents. A twist at the end of the novel reveals Jake never had a relationship with the girl and he has fabricated the story in order to imagine what his life might have been like if he’d had a serious relationship or at least another person with whom he could share his life.

Jake’s girlfriend, who is never given a name, announces at the beginning of the novel that she is “thinking of ending things” (3). She is riding in the car with Jake on the way to meet his parents. Even though she is afraid Jake thinks their relationship is getting stronger, she wants the relationship to end. At least, that is what the reader thinks at the beginning. The end of the novel features a disturbing twist that reveals all of the characters the Girlfriend meets during the course of her visit to Jake’s parents are pieces of Jake’s psyche, and the book is actually an extended metaphor for Jake’s life.

Jake’s behavior is baffling as he takes his Girlfriend on a tour of his family’s farm when they first arrive, even though it is cold, dark and starting to snow. Inside the house, the Girlfriend indicates she feels as if she has stepped into a time warp. Even a photo that Jake claims is of himself as a child appears to be much older than the Girlfriend thinks it should be. When she looks closely at it, she thinks the photo looks like her. This makes sense when the reader takes into consideration that the Girlfriend is a fragmented part of Jake.

After dinner with Jake’s parents, Jake and the Girlfriend make a stop at a Dairy Queen and then go on a side trip down a back road to find a place to throw away their cups. Jake takes the Girlfriend to a huge high school, the school that turns out to be the place where Jake works. Jake pretends there is a man he saw watching them while they made out in the car and runs into the school after him. Fearing Jake has been hurt when he does not return, the Girlfriend goes in the school as well. She searches for Jake, though she fears that the man who works as the janitor is trying to hunt her down. It is only later that she realizes there was never anyone but Jake and that he lured her into the school intentionally. A self-portrait that the mother part of Jake’s psyche gave the Girlfriend makes her realize that she, as well as all the characters she has met, are pieces of Jake.

The Girlfriend is locked inside the school and alone, which is a metaphor for Jake’s life. He feels locked inside his mental illness and unable to get out. He has no family or friends and has difficulty communicating with others. Even though he is intelligent and at one point did his doctoral level work in a lab, he has wound up as a school custodian because he cannot handle being around people. All of the pieces of his personality have been gathered at the school so that he can put an end to his misery.

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