Critical Analysis of Happy Endings in Relation to the Pervasive Expectation of Society

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Happy Endings is a short story written by Margaret Atwood and was published in 1983.The story revolves around two major characters, John and Mary get in a romantic relationship, get married, start having differences within marriage including cheating on each other and eventually ends up dying tragically. All these occurrences are covered in different categories of the story. For instance in part of the story, everything is just right and both John and Mary end up happy as the title portrays. This turns out not to be the case in part B and C of the story as everything gets even messier due to lack of mutual affection towards each other. It is therefore convincible t state that even though the story keeps revolving around different types of relationship between John and Mary, its larger perspective describes various types of relationships among human today. For instance, at times the relationships is smooth, at times the boredom comes in, some people on the other hand fails to have mutual love in a relationship as it is the case in part B of the story and so on. The story can therefore be argued to be a depiction of various relationships in the society today. However, this is achieved by the author through maintaining the characters in all the versions of the story but twisted the plotting.

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Aspects of in Relation to the Pervasive Expectation of Society

Margate Atwood uses different plots in different sections of the story to differentiate between various types of perceptions that people have in various relationships. For instance, in section A of the story, the author applies a plot that depicts mutual intimacy between John and Mary who are seen to be leading a happy smooth life free from any turbulent occurrences (Atwood, 485). The author therefore uses this pot to create awareness among the readers that whenever mutual love exists within a relationship; chances are that both parties in the relationships will end up being happy (Collins et al, 637) like it is the case in Section A. However, that is not the case in section B since the pot used only depicts Mary are the only person who has an affection towards John while John seems to be using Mary just to satisfy his pleasure. This therefore, influences the existence of turbulent relationship between the two and the same applies to the relationships in the society today.

Magrate Atwood is also applying unconventional formation in the story as a way of trying to relate the occurrences in the story to the perception of the society. A good example is when John decides to kill Mary, James and himself when he realizes that James s having an affair with Mary (Atwood, 488). Even though he is cheating on his wife with Mary, he feels jealous that Mary is sleeping with James hence murdering both of them even when Mary only had an affair with her out of sympathy. It is therefore unconventional that even though John is married to Madge and cheats on her with Mary, he cannot stand someone cheating on him. This is very abnormal especially when he ends up killing James, Mary and himself thus leaving Madge only to get married to Fred. This is also the case in the society, in that today even some married couple still cheats on their spouses yet they cannot stand being cheated upon thus leading to breakage in relationships (Collins et al, 638) just as it happened between John and Madge in section C.

Section C also reveals that ironical aspect use by the author in the story on an issue that can be related to the society perspectives. This aspect also comes out through the jealousy shown by John when he kills Mary and James just because they had an affair (Atwood, 488). Though married to Madge and not Mary he feels bad when James is having sex with Mary. This feeling makes him kill Mary who did not sincerely love him but loves James instead. The irony perspective therefore comes out in that he (John) does things that he cannot accept to be done to him. He cheats on Madge by having an affair with Mary, yet he fails to stand the idea that Mary is also having an affair with James yet he (John) is not even married to her.


The author of the story Happy Endings has use tried to depict some of the actual occurrences in real romantic life to her work. It is clear that the six versions of the story describes various types of the relationships among couples in the real society and the author has applied the use of various tools such as Irony, Unconventional form and plot in trying to relate the story to the real life. For instance, Atwood uses different plots to describe the relationship between John and Mary in different versions of story. These include plotting smooth love and cheating among couples in various versions of the story hence bringing out different types of relationships that exists within the society. The writer has also used unconventional formation of individuals within tee relationships as a way of relating the aspect of relationship cheating in the society with the events that takes place in version C of the story among others. Use of such tools has enabled the author to recycle the same characters throughout the story to come up with six distinctive versions whose differences lies only on the plotting.

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. "Happy endings." Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama and Writing (1983): 485-491.

Collins, W. Andrew, Deborah P. Welsh, and Wyndol Furman. "Adolescent romantic relationships." Annual review of psychology 60 (2009): 631-652.

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