29 pages 58 minutes read

Margaret Atwood

Happy Endings

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1983

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Symbols & Motifs

Real Estate Values

Real estate values are one of the few things, other than characters, that gets repeated in the story. Real estate values are in Section A, where they go up; in Section C, where John and Madge buy a house “just before the real estate values went up” (44); and in Section D, where real estate values go down with the impending arrival of the tidal wave.

Perhaps more than anything, real estate values—traditionally an ample part of the figurative health of any capitalist society—are very much played down in Atwood’s story. In Section A, where accord seems to be reached between male and female, real estate values rise. Looked at in a literal sense, this would seem to have largely no bearing on the events in Section A, save for the fact that John and Mary can afford help in raising their children. However, this rise in real estate values can symbolically be seen as an increase in social currency once gender equality has been located.

The John in Section C has also bought his house, with Madge, before real estate values went up—this is presumably at a moment before John begins his affair with Mary.