29 pages 58 minutes read

Margaret Atwood

Happy Endings

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1983

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Character Analysis


John and Mary—or reproductions of John and Mary, constructed from some unseen original—appear “in-scene” in Sections A, B, and C of “Happy Endings.” In Section A, John and Mary are married, have two kids, and get along. They own a house and then they die. In Section B, John is a piggish oaf who uses Mary for sex and then seems to grow disinterested in her and more interested in another romantic partner, Madge. In Section C, John is in love with Mary, but Mary is in love with James. When John finds Mary and James together, he kills both of them and then himself.In both Sections B and C, it’s John who personifies notions of patriarchy and the sexual objectification of women. 


Mary, like John, is seen “in-scene” in Sections A, B and C of the narrative. She and John are happy in Section A. Mary is very much unhappy in Section B. In Section C, she takes pity on John and sleeps with him, her rationale for which is that he’s going bald (which, in keeping with postmodernist thought/theory, is a reason that exists without the notion of reason). Mary and her love interest, James, are killed by John in Section C.