The novel story, and the world that the author builds, is an ideal reality. No matter what crazy or fantastical events occur in the beginning or middle of the story, the end will make sense of it all. The ending, in a successful story, is meant to provide illumination and a conclusion to all the questions and mysteries that arise in the beginning and middle of the story. So the death of the character, or the ending of the novel, should bring some sort of meaning to the rest of the story. Characters come to find meaning in their existence, or come to understandings about who they are, and reconcile themselves of certain issues.
Perhaps this is why we write. Perhaps this is why authors work to include aspects of realism within their stories. If the novel story can reflect reality, than perhaps we too can make sense of our own lives, through the conclusions we read about.
p.s. ROW80 news: 85 pages, 15 more to go!