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Midori Reyes
Prof. Finamori
English IV
February, 16, 2014

Choosing our own ending

Who would not like to lead a life with a happy ending? In the short story Happy Endings,

Margaret Atwood presents us a series of plots with different situations, but with the same

outcome, which is regarded as the actual happy ending. However, the author produces a critic

in some parts of these versions regarding modern values, mores and concepts that prevail in some

cultures. Thus, Atwood uses some elements of the various plots as a satire for what contemporary

society has imposed to us as the desired outcome of our lives.

The first section introduces the allegedly ideal ending. The whole paragraph is devoted to

the depiction of certain components that are considered necessary in order to achieve a good life,

or what would appear a perfect existence. Such factors include a prosperous marriage with a

stimulating and challenging sex life (116), good friendships, charming children and exciting

hobbies. It is important to notice that the economic success is stressed throughout this plot, since

both protagonists John and Mary have remunerative jobs, they manage to have live-in help in

a lovely house, and also go on vacations. Nevertheless, the speaking voice repeatedly uses some

words to describe these elements in the same way, thus portraying them as actually dull and
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monotonous, as seen when she uses the adjectives challenging, stimulating and

worthwhile, three times each.

In the second plot, Atwood presents a different Mary, one who is weak, troubled, and

deeply in love with John. In this version, the author makes the character of Mary dependent of the

male figure, since the only thing that she seeks is his approval, regardless of the fact that she has

to pretend or change herself in order to like him. Another problem that can be found in this Mary

is that her ideals and illusions reside in the concept of marriage. The desire is stated twice in the

plot: and they will get married and then they can get married (117), when talking about her

schemes to get John. Although not stated within the narrative, it could be that she seeks this goal

because it has been established by society as a desirable social position, as portrayed in the

happy picture of the first plot. This type of character that Mary represents can be found not

only in literature, but also in real life, and Atwood describes her unfortunate events as a way of

denouncing a real social problem.

In version C, Mary once again encounters an unfavorable situation. It is true that she can

exercise a free sexuality, sleeping with James and John. However, by the way the story is

constructed it can be understood that, in reality, that is the only way in which she can exert her

liberty. While James is free of going anywhere he wants in his motorcycle, Mary has to be

satisfied by what she can do with her autonomy, i.e., her body. As the narrator states: Freedom
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isnt the same for girls (117). Once again, the author condemns the morality of modern society,

because Mary ends up death precisely because she enjoyed that freedom. Additionally to this,

the other female figure, Madge who is married, with two children and a charming

house obtains the happy ending because she is the one that resembles the Mary from version A.

In this way, Margaret Atwood intertwines stereotypical images that are related to the

contemporary concept of a good life that supposedly will eventually lead to the so-called

happy ending while criticizing the established social roles and the standardized material

elements that define it. Although the pursuit of happiness can be considered as the ultimate

goal in our lives, we should acknowledge that what matter is not the ending, but the journey we

take until we reach the final point. Inasmuch as the real ending to all stories, as Atwood so

bluntly states, is death, we might as well enjoy our time in the way we regard best, without

worrying about the social conventions.