29 pages 58 minutes read

Margaret Atwood

Happy Endings

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1983

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.



If theme is what a story is about, “Happy Endings” is about what stories are about: Atwood writes a story that is about writing a story. Metafictional narratives are self-reflexive, often radically so, and, in effect, seek proactively to never allow the reader to get “lost” in the story, and instead consistently remind the reader that what they are reading is a construction, and not ‘organic,’ or natural.

“Happy Endings” employs numerous elements of metafiction. Atwood consistently intrudes on the narrative to comment on said narrative, especially in the story’s last section. She does so, in that section, to directly address the reader, another tenet of metafiction. The story rejects conventional plot, and in consistently having the characters in various sections wind up back in Section A, Atwood would seem to flaunt the instability of the narrative, another feature of metafiction. Atwood’s story imitates a story, as opposed to imitating the “real world.” 

Feminist Theory and Thought

Yet another aspect of metafiction is the incorporation of theory (and/or criticism) into the narrative itself. In “Happy Endings,” the subtext of the narrative, in nearly every section, is gender roles as seen through the lens of feminist theory.