“Happy Endings” struck me as a commentary both on writing and on how people act. We discussed the significance of form thoroughly in class, but I want to delve into the format a bit deeper. The idea that a story can be changed simply by skipping a part (in this case a numbered section) and substituting it with another, is rather interesting to me. It sounds so simple, but a few choice words can change meaning drastically.
This is made blatantly clear in section “E”, where Atwood suggests that if the reader is not satisfied with the story as it is, he can simply substitute four phrases and the story is completely different. The sad but hopeful tone is changed to gloomy and uncomfortable with the substitution of a few words.
Getting back to the first point, so much literature stands as a monolithic unified force that it is off-putting to see it as malleable as it is here. If the reader chooses, he can simple pick a random section and be done with it. There is no overarching traditionalist form like is seen in literature for centuries. After I got over this initial discomfort, I was able to embrace it and play with the story. It is interesting to read the passages out of order, to see where and how they meld together.
The technical format of the story is certainly important, but I think the content is even more significant. All of these stories, whether they are written well or not, express the hopes and desires of people that might as well be real. There is no cloud of details to wade through. Instead, they are very concise, focusing almost strictly on character.
“B” showcases the fall of a woman lacking ambition and too scared to change to know when she is being taken advantage of. “C” describes a love triangle born of boredom and ending in bloody jealously. They all give a snapshot of the human condition, whether it is good or bad. I would argue that they do in fact work as life lessons to the reader.