Critical analysis and interpretation
Margaret Atwood Happy Endings story is a six-part story. These kinds of stories are referred to as the metafiction stories. The story begins with the author introducing the characters to the readers. The story is made up of six chapters that are labeled A-F with different versions of the story. The story has different plots, but some have more plots than the other. However, they all have the same ending as in plot A. She uses the short story Happy Endings to show that the ending of a story does not matter but instead the middle as the ends are all cliched. This essay critically analyses and interprets Atwood story by highlighting her use of satire, sarcasm the shift of tone, flat character and lack of plot, and representation of the stereotypic gender roles to critique the people motivations, goals and the way people live their life.
Lack of Plot and Flat Characters
Margaret Atwood’s Happy endings story primarily contains six-part that have the main basis of” John and Mary Meet” However, the author introduces only four characters in the entire six-part story. The writer, recommends that if you want a happy ending to go to Plot A., The first part presents a well-lived or ideal married life that many people can only dream of. John and Mary get married, they have two children who turn out just fine, they have fulfilling careers, they even have to stimulate and challenging sex and career life, they get a house that appreciates and they, even manage to retire and go for vacations.
In the first plot, the writer focused on outlining to the audience a cliched happy ending life that stories sometimes give. The story in plot one has no drama which makes the story boring even if they had a happy ending life. The characters in the story did not face any conflicts, tensions, and crisis. As a result, the absence of conflicts and the tensions in the story, there was no character development. While reading the story in Plot A the name Mary and John becomes empty names as we do not know them and we have no reason to care about them. While the character has a had a happy ending, Plot A falls flat, without very many aspects of a good story. While it is possible to live this life, there are many factors in play that make people either choose different ways of living or follow other paths that derail them from living Plot A kind if life (Kilesig, 2)
The author used the lack of plot to show the characters the story. The same flat characters that were used in plot D are the same ones that the author uses in Plot A. The author uses the phrase “charming house” by the seashore outlining how the characterS are just living by enduring death as the “tidal wave approaches” and even “though thousands drown, but Fred and Madge are victorious and luck” (Atwood, 292). The value of their property falls, but they still manage to live as in plot A. The authors fail to develop the characters and lack plot. The author also used the sarcasm to describe their “charming house.” It is an empty adjective, and that is used to describe the house. The author ensure that she repeats the “charming house” severally to add the satirical tone and sarcastic voice to the story.
Stereotypic gender roles of women
In these plots, the author uses them to outline accurately the stereotypic gender roles that have been put on the women. The author added different aspects of the story, with same characters just a different setting. However, they all have the basis of John and Mary Meet. However, the story is still the same since the author uses the same stock characters from the first plot. In plot B the author outlines that Mary is an unrequited lover who has a hope that John the incentive male “has another john inside him who will emerge like a butterfly from a cocoon, a jack from a box, a pit from a prune if the first john is only squeezed enough.” (Atwood, 292) Afterward, they can get married and live happily ever after.
Mary, a lady, is only thinking about getting, married. Even though she is getting hurt and she is mistreated. The author describes Mary as a stereotypical traditional woman who falls in love with John, but John doe not falls in love with…” (291). She cooks him dinner, washes utensils at night to avoid looking untidy and puts on fresh lipstick, but John still does not notice. Despite all these she continues to play her roles o nurturing sensitivity and pleasing caretaker role , However, her friends tell her that John is a rat and a pig and a dog who doesn’t deserve her time. Mary commits suicide because of despair. John marries Madge and continues as in A.
In plot C, John is the insecure middle-aged married man that seeks approval from a much younger Mary who is 22 years old. In the story, the author outlines Mary as a traditional middle-class woman unable, to be honest with John a married man who “falls in Love “with her. She chooses to sacrifice her love and like to be with a married man. Mary loves another 22-year-old male who likes to have his freedom. In the end, John finds “they stoned and entwined.” He gets a shotgun and shoots the two of them and himself. The author outlines the thin plot of the story and writes that we will deal with that later. Madge gets married and proceeds to same life as Plot A. Plot E allows the reader to pick a problem that the two go through. It can either be Fred with a bad heart of Madge has a Cancer. Then they all die.
Shift in tone
In the final Story F, Margaret Atwood changed the tone and spoke directly to the reader. She spoke to the reader by saying “if you think thus is all too bourgeois, make John and Mary counterespionage and see how far that gets.” (Kennedy, 293). The writers main aim was to show how people characters do not matter as they all have the same pursuits in life.
Most people who are in the middle class are chasing a good job, marriage, a charming hose and at the end, they will die like John and Mary Die. In this statement, the writer is making a satirical statement in the way people are motivated and the choices they make. They are more focused on “what, what, what” (293), without the consideration of how or why they are doing it or motivated towards the things. The climax story ends with the end of the satire when the writer points to the readers where she writes “Don’t be deluded by any other endings, they are all fake, either deliberately or fake, with malicious intent to deceive or just motivated by excessive optimism if not downright optimism. The only authentic ending is one provided here: John and Mary die. John and Mary die. John and Mary Die. “(293)
Margaret Atwood use if sarcasm is amplified by her use of irony and stereotypical gender roles. The sarcasm also come from vulgar language and rude expressions. By using the expressions, the writer criticizes the choices that the characters make. In plot B one of the rude expressions is “he fucks her,” uttered in a tone that is against the female mentality. In Plot C the writer uses several sexual expressions and drug uses for example “stoned,” keep it up longer” which adds up the sarcasm nature of the whole scenario. In plot A, the author only briefly described the sex life of the characters as stimulating and challenging. However, in plot B, the author describes individual sex encounters of the two characters she writes “he fucks her and that he falls asleep” (Atwood, 291). The author insists on using the vulgar diction to show the readers how the men had a stereotypical view of the women. John was using “her body for selfish pleasure and ego gratification of a tepid kind.” (Atwood, 291). Even though her friends warn her that John is not good for her Mary does not believe them.
In the story, through the introduction of sarcasm and description of their lives, the characters are now fully developed. It is easy for the reader to see that Mary is a traditional woman who, despite all the mistreatment still believes that she can change John and make her a husband. On the other hand, John is still an immature male that uses women for sexual pleasure and ego gratification. Through the description the author critically addresses the choices of the characters while shedding light on people’s lives and how it impacts their overall being.
Evaluation of Secondary criticisms
According to a critical analysis by Kiesig (2012) Atwood use of satire, irony, lack of plot and underdeveloped characters, stereotypical gender roles, and shifting diction is a way that Atwood uses to critique a middle socioeconomic class and criticizing how people pursue the ordinary lives. However, I believe it is an approach that the author, Atwood uses to outline the character motivations and how they greatly impact the outcomes of their lives. From the same approach. Through his work Kilesig (2012) outlines clearly and tries to link the author’s satires, irony change of dictions, and stereotypical gender roles to the pursuit of the ordinary life. However, while the perception is different from various authors most of the outcomes and the results are the same.
Example, Kilesig (2012) outlines that the people that are and the middle life people are in pursuit the same thing without regarding their character. The author outlines hat they are just searching for a good job, an ideal marriage and charming house to live happily ever after. On the other hand, connected the satire, irony and shift and diction to outline how the people were just motivated to obtain the charming house, an ideal marriage, and a good house. In all the critical analysis, all the two characters die. However, while we had different perspectives in the different aspects, we shared the same opinion about Margaret Atwood idea of that. Eventually, John and Mary die as the most authentic end to the story.
Perez (2012) however, focused on outlining the plot of the story and interpreting the story in the simplest form. The author deeply analyzed the story and tried to outline what the author meant and left out. While the author helps one get the story in a more in-depth analysis, it lacks the critical analysis aspect of outlining the use of satire, change of tones, character analysis and the role of gender bias against women. Therefore, anyone that would read the journal will not be able to understand the way the literary writing style has been used in the story. Unlike the article by Perez (2012) Kiesig (2012) clearly outlined the flat character aspect, lack of plot, and satire in developing the story and passing the message. Therefore, it was one of the best secondary sources to use for the critical analysis.
Margaret Eleanor Atwood was born in 1939, and she is now 79 years old. She is a Canadian who was born in Ottawa, Ontario in Canada. She is a novelist teacher, novelist, environmental activist, and poet she is an accomplished writer. In her collection of work, she has published 17 poetry books, sixteen novels, ten books of non-fiction eights books from children, one graphic novel, plus other poetry edition for their novels.
The author started attending school on full-time basis when she was eight years old. She was an ardent reader. She started to wring and publishing poems professionally when she was 16She then went to Victoria college off in the University of Toronto and later in 1961 went to Radcliff college of Harvard University in Woodrow fellowship. In 1962, she obtained her masters degree despite failing to finish her dissertation the English Metaphysical Romance. The author stories rotated around the themes of Historical fictions, dystopian fiction, speculative fiction and science fictions. Notable works from the writer are a Handsmaid tale, Alias Grace, Oryx and Cake, The Blind Assassin, Surfacing, the Cat’s Eye and the Happy endings metafiction.
In 1968 Atwood married an American writer Jim Polk but they were divorced in 1973. She later married her fellow Novelist Graeme Gibson. Together they had a daughter Eleanor Jess Atwood Gibson in 1976. They moved back to Toronto where they have been living since then. She is an accomplished writer, but she admits that she is a terrible speller.
Her life had a lot of similarities to her works. Some scholars have considered and highlighted that some of her stories are loosely about her life. First looking at the story of Happy Endings there is a lot of similarities in her life and with that of the character of John and Mary. Margaret Atwood has had a quite successful career and was married to Jim Polk. Just the same way John Married Mary or Madge depending on the plot. However, after 5years in marriage she divorced him, and now she is married to Graeme Gibson. She got one child from the marriage. John or Mary died in some stories, and they either married Madge or Fred respectively depending on the plot. The similarity is more than just a mere coincidence. It shows that she drew inspiration from herself or people around her. Thus, the validity and reliability of her stories are enhanced as they reflect the true happenings if the events all around us.
The story was first published in 1983 in Canada. There are a lot of similarities that were happening at that time in Canada and what was happening in the story of Happy Endings. Margaret Atwood through the story decided to focus on one of the issues that were predominant in that age. The bias against women. Through the story, Margaret Atwood wanted to highlight what the women had to go through during that time.
The period between the 1965-1985 was termed as the second wave of the women. The writer showed the character Mary was dominated by the male John in story Plot B, C, D. Using the stories, she showed what the women were going through especially when relating to men. While most were submissive and following what the men said they did not benefit as most men were selfish. The second wave movement was about empowering the women and ensuring that they had equal opportunities to men.
It was at around this time that there was the greatest number of the women movements that were pushing for equal rights, pushed for world peace, birth control and education rights. However, she joined another writer like Marie Claire, Denisee Bouchers and Maria Campbell who were at that time writing to shed light on the misogyny though their literal works. The Happy Endings was among the stories that addressed or highlighted the misogyny issue against the women at the time.
Atwood, M. (1989). Happy endings. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, 279-81. This is the story that is under analysis. The author used satire, sarcasm, lack of plot, failure to develop the characters and stereotypical gender roles that criticizes people’s choices and the things that motivates them. The author claims that all the individuals are motivated by the same thing for example ideal marriages, charming house, children, and good job then wait for death.
Dietrich, Theresa. “Final Project: Curricular Unit 12 May 2016.” (2016). The author of the journal analyses several stories in the document. She focused o the literary styles that were used in several other stories. However, she also focused on the Happy endings lack of character development and in the Happy Endings and its effectiveness.
DiYanni, Robert. Literature: approaches to fiction, poetry, and drama. McGraw-Hill, 2004. The text by DiYanni Robert focuses on giving student centered approaches to literature from experience to interpretation and then help with evaluation. The text uses Happy endings story for interpretation and critically analyses the literary styles that were applied by Margaret Atwood.
Kennedy, X.J., and Dana Gioia, eds. Backpack Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. 4th ed. New York: Longman, 2012. 290-293. Print. The text briefly outlines literature most popular introductions to literature anthropology. The text gives poetic voice to the works and adds the human perspective to discussion of the Happy ending’s literature. It adds and analyses the Happy endings literary features and shows their effectiveness in the story.
Kilesig. M., Middle Class Identity: A Critical Analysis of Margaret Atwood’s ” Happy endings.” The paper critically analyses the Happy Endings author use of satire, stereotypical gender roles, lack of plot and the lac of character development. The author explains how through the literary styles, the author criticized people for only striving to achieve a mediocre life.
Malo-Juvera, Victor. “Traditional and Tragic Heroes: Using Archetypal Analysis to Introduce Students to Critical Lenses.” SIGNAL Journal (2013): 6-11. The author takes the readers through the process of critical analysis of the short stories. The paper then analyses a few stories as an example. It provides an ideal example that can be used for the happy endings story.
Palumbo, Alice M. “On the Border: Margaret Atwood’s Novels.” Margaret Atwood: Works and Impact (2000): 73-85.The authors specifically focus on the works by Margaret Atwood. They provide both critical and descriptive analysis. In doing so, they outline the themes, the literary style and the styles of writing that the author used. They also analyze and interpret the happy Endings in the Canadian setting
Perez, Maria Calzado. “Translating The Sisters and Happy Endings.” Translation Journal, Vol. 5, No.2, April 2001. Google Scholar. Web. 30 May 2012. The authors translated the current story alongside another story. Therefore, it offered an explanation and ease of understanding to the Happy ending story.