The Neverending Story examines how stories benefit people by giving them histories and futures, by helping them imaginatively explore possibilities, and by helping them learn who they are. By highlighting the importance of stories in the lives of Bastian and the inhabitants of Fantastica, the book raises questions about the relationships between narrative and the real world, the writer, the reader, and other stories. Although Ende raises these questions, he never answers them, preferring the rich indeterminacy of ambiguity. The only idea he promotes is fantasy's importance.
Ende left West Germany for Rome years before The Neverending Story was published to escape the political atmosphere. However, members of the West German peace movement adopted the book as their text because of its emphasis on imagination.
The Neverending Story is unique among quest stories because it emphasizes the importance of stories and the imagination so directly. Its other themes, however, are fairly standard among quest stories. These center on Bastian's growth, and they include his losing and regaining personal identity, his growing toward such good characteristics as self-confidence and generosity, and his learning that goodness is generally rewarded and that wickedness is generally punished. In the end he is brought to understand that human nature and life itself are mixtures of bitterness and happiness and that forgiveness, compassion, and...
(The entire section is 369 words.)