Reading the story symbolically, I can say that the ending is satisfying. Part of Gene dies with Finny - his innocence, his boyhood, his separation from the world of adults. We can see this idea played out in the final chapter as Gene begins to move out of Devon.
I also like the lack of closure between Finny and Gene. The last conversation they have is important and offers some degree of conclusion, but does not quite answer the novel's underlying question, which is whether or not Finny and Gene can both believe in their friendship.
Agreed. I find it satisfying in that the conclusion comes full circle--we meet Gene first as an adult fifteen years after the events of the story, and we're back to "adult" Gene at the end, as well. I, too, find it a sad ending. Finny has lost more than his life--he's lost his innocence. Gene has lived a rather melancholy adult life, unable to give himself the forgiveness Finny needed to give him. I always enjoy teaching this novel; however, on a personal level, I find it disconcerting to read.
I concur with mshurn in her assessment of the ending of this novel. It does "tie up" all the loose ends in a very satisfying way, clearly establishing the theme of the novel and challenging us as readers to be aware of the "Maginot Lines" that we construct against, at times, illusory enemies. Yet, this knowledge is brought at a great price - the death of Finny and the end of idealism, youth and naivety. We are left with a chilling sense of the brutality of reality and the depressing weight of "real life" comes crushing down on us. Hardly a happy ending in any sense of the word. So not disappointing as such, but definitely no light relief!
From a literary perspective, the conclusion of the novel is satisfying in that it is consistent with the nature of the characters as they have been developed throughout the story. Also, the conclusion effectively "ties up" the novel's numerous themes in regard to youth, friendship, war, and self-knowledge. A different ending would have seemed contrived and unconvincing.
From a personal perspective, the conclusion is simply sad. How sad it is that these boys have endured so much emotional suffering as their world has been turned upside down by forces beyond their control, how sad that they have lived in such emotional isolation with no steadying adult leadership to help them through their conflicts. Each one has had to struggle alone, and the effects of their fear and confusion are difficult to experience in the novel's conclusion. The fact that Gene walks away with a greater understanding of himself and human nature in general is fine, but his knowledge is gained at an enormously high price.