29 pages 58 minutes read

Margaret Atwood

Happy Endings

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1983

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Story Analysis

Analysis: "Happy Endings"

Atwood employs a broad range of postmodernist techniques in crafting “Happy Endings,” and, in doing so, explodes the notion of the traditional narrative, while at the same time providing commentary on what such narratives are composed of.

Like nearly all of the stories comprising the collection Murder in the Dark, in which this story first appeared, Atwood plays with the form story takes. “Happy Endings” is decidedly metafictional, meaning that it’s writing that is in some way about the process or craft of writing. To this end, Atwood’s division of her narrative into organized sections may be seen as the story’s form fitting its function: just as the content of the narrative is, ultimately, about how the notion of story works, the almost clinically-labeled sections can be seen as specimens, examples of the ways in which narrative follows an arc, from beginning to end. This is especially true in the story’s two longest sections: B and C. Here, we see Atwood employ traditional modes of storytelling, and craft genuine narrative arcs, with rising and falling action and clear moments of crisis, climax, and resolution.

At the end of both of these sections, we are asked by Atwood to then effectively return to Section A, in order to learn what happens to the characters comprising Sections B and C (and, also, Section D).