Monday, September 22, 2014

"Happy Endings" response to Alex

No matter what way I read “Happy Endings” I found it satirical. I thought it was mocking how anyone can honestly believe they will have a simple “happy ending” to their life or lives. I think the style Atwood chose to use is in direct contrast to her satirical style. As I read “A” it was more of a list than anything. It is supposed to be the most “happy ending” however Atwood’s syntax and diction lead me to read it sarcastically. Like life is this, this, and this; then we die.
I think Atwood’s main idea was that no matter what we do in our lives from life to death, in the end we all die; “You'll have to face it, the endings are the same however you slice it. Don't be deluded by any other endings, they're all fake, either deliberately fake, with malicious intent to deceive, or just motivated by excessive optimism if not by downright sentimentality. The only authentic ending is the one provided here: John and Mary die. John and Mary die. John and Mary die.
I agree with Alex that it’s hard to get over the discomfort of not reading a traditional piece and that it is up to us to take the story wherever we want. I think we can compare this story with life itself, its up to us to pick the path we want to go down, but doing so, finding the how and why is not always going to be so simple like in “A”.
I also agree that the technical format is extremely important. Like Alex said, there is no cloud of detail to wade through making each character very concise. This is real and allows us to see the desires and hopes of each character. Without the use of poetic descriptions we can focus all our attentions strictly on the characters. Also there is no single setting or plot. This pushes me to zone in more on the characters as well. Atwood’s characters names are also very boring and typical; this allows me to be whomever I want in the story. It makes the stories more relatable you could say, but it also forces the reader to not get attached to any one character and just understand the idea behind the story.

The story ends with “F” where Atwood is challenging the reader to make up his or her own ending. She is being sarcastic saying “make John a revolutionary and Mary a counterespionage agent and see how far that gets you”. This backs up my idea of this piece being satirical.


  1. I suppose I didn’t realize it at first, but the typical nature of Atwood’s character names definitely lends to open interpretation. Like Katie, I sort of juxtaposed the characters situations onto people that I know. I think this is a very useful literary technique, as it allows the reader to become more thoroughly attached to the characters and their outcome, making them more important to the reader.
    I don’t think that Atwood is necessarily telling the reader that “A” is the best option. While it is written satirically, I think that her main point is that “A” is boring. How many people truly want a life where everything goes smoothly? Isn’t there some sort of perverse satisfaction that comes from overcoming the odds? Personally, I would hate living a life like “A”. I couldn’t imagine something more dull and worthless. Where is the adventure and intrigue? To me, Atwood seems to be laying out a variety of options for life stories, not necessarily saying that one is better than the others.
    Above all, I believe that Atwood is challenging the reader to be creative, both in life and in their work. She is definitely playing with the reader in her comment about John and Mary as spies, but I do not think she is completely discounting that situation in a satirical manner. I think that she is reiterating that all stories end in death, no matter how far-fetched the plot is.

  2. I like what you said Katie, that its Atwood’s syntax and diction that makes section “A” read as a mockery. When I read it over I try to think about what language could have been used if it’s intent was not to be a mockery. I think it has a lot to do with the length of the section. I also agree with what you said about the language itself and that because it is not poetic, it makes us focus more on the characters. The story is surely character driven, but what even more interesting is that it’s not really about the characters. That’s why they have such common names, as Katie said, they could be anyone. It’s one of the only stories I’ve read that was not about the character or plot, but almost totally about the message the author is trying to express. Atwell does this really uniquely, I mean she could have given us a story with a plot that sends the same message. But, instead of doing that, Atwell literally shows us what she means. It’s also interesting because when we think back on this story we probably won’t remember the names of the characters, or maybe anything about the plot (like we may other stories) but we will remember the structure more than the structure of other stories because it’s so original. As a writer, it makes me curious about other ways one could structure a short story differently than how they are traditionally structured. I would consider this short story a type of experimental fiction.

    In addition, I would like to talk about the theme of happiness in the story because none of the endings are really that happy. All the sections eventually lead back to section “A” and ends with the character’s death. I would argue that death is not a happy ending. My interpretation is that Atwood’s tone is also pessimistic. By applying the endings for her characters, she is simultaneously telling her readers their endings as well.

  3. Very interesting discussion here, and I think you are all quite right to focus on the satire. Given how extensively she calls attention to the artificiality of these stories though, what do you think she is satirizing--life expectations, or our expectations for what is supposed to happen in stories? Or maybe both?