"Happy Endings" is a short story by Margaret Atwood. It was first published in a 1983 Canadian collection, Murder in the Dark, and highlighted during the nomination period for the 2017/2018 Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize.
The short story includes six different stories, labeled A to F, which each quickly summarize the lives of its characters, eventually culminating in death. The names of characters recur throughout the stories and the stories reference each other (e.g. "everything continues as in A"), challenging narrative literary conventions.
In addition, the story explores themes of domesticity, welfare, and success.
- He is one of the main characters of the short story. In A, he is in love with Mary and is happily married to her. In B, he doesn't feel the same way Mary does for him as he only uses her for her body. He eventually takes a woman named Madge to a restaurant. In the end, he marries her. In C, he is a middle-aged man married to Madge but is in love with twenty-two-year-old Mary. One day he sees Mary with another man and shoots both of them before shooting himself.
- She is the main character of the short story. In A, she is happily married to John and had children with him. In B, Mary is in love with John but is saddened with the fact that he doesn't love her. In C, she is a twenty-two-year old who is in love with James. She is shot by John.
- He is a twenty-two-year-old whom Mary has feelings for. He isn't ready to settle down and prefers to ride his motorcycle. He wants to be free while he's still young. One day, he and Mary have sex. He is shot by John towards the end. He doesn't appear anywhere else.
- In B, Madge is John's love interest. She is taken to a restaurant and eventually, they get married. In C, she is John's wife. In D, she meets a man named Fred.
- He is the man Madge meets.
Essay Margaret Atwood's Happy Endings: a Metafictional Story
719 Words3 Pages
Happy Endings is an oddly structured, metafictional story; a series of possible scenarios all leading the characters to the same ending. Atwood uses humour and practical wisdom to critique both romantic fiction and contemporary society, and to make the point that it is not the end that is important, it is the journey that truly matters in both life and writing.
Metafiction is fiction that deals, often playfully and self-referentially, with the writing of fiction or its conventions (website 1). Margaret Atwood is clearly mocking the conventions of romantic fiction throughout the entire story, beginning with the third line "if you want a happy ending, try A." Each scenario includes the idea that "you'll still end up with A" despite the…show more content…
This is by far the most striking aspect of Happy Endings, and even if her opinion goes unnoticed, one can not ignore the framework of this story. There are no paragraphs. There is no beginning, middle end. There is no grand introduction or stunning finale. The lack of form in this work stems from the lack of structure and depth of romantic fiction. Atwood feels this type of writing lacks emotion and conviction and can be easily thrown together and kept together by a few clichés and stereotypes. A hodgepodge of cheesy ideas that are malleable and easily interchangeable. She shakes things up by not organizing the text in sequential order, and events are not connected or presented in a straightforward, chronological order. This is a short story that lacks all the common characteristics of a short story.
One must assume that Atwood pities those who live their lives like a piece of romantic fiction. Like the stories, these people are shallow and unrealistic, most likely enthralled by pop culture. In scenario F she speaks directly to these delusional beings, saying "if you think this is all too bourgeois, make John a revolutionary and Mary a counterespionage agent and see where that gets you." There are certainly people in the world who would smile and concoct an image in their head of this completely farcical romantic storyline, and would definitely enjoy reading it. I find it