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Transcript of Margaret Atwood
By: Minka Dutch
Is there a Circle?
What is the common denominator between all these scenarios? In case you missed it, Atwood sums it up in her concluding remarks. 'John and Mary die. John and Mary die. John and Mary die.'
As in 'The Age of Lead,' 'Happy Endings' forces us to question the point of life. Every story, carried to its ultimate logical conclusion, has the same ending, because all lives have the same ending. We may die in the heat of battle; we may die in our sleep. We may die in infancy, in a gang war, in a nursing home. But we're going to die. The story isn't in the ending -- it's in what we do on the way there.
-In scenario D, Fred and Madge have no interpersonal problems at all, but their house is swept away by a tidal wave. They emerge 'wet and dripping and grateful, and continue as in A.'
-In scenario E, Fred is found to have heart problems. Madge nurses him until he dies, after which she selflessly devotes herself to volunteer work for the rest of her life. It is in this scenario, incidentally, that Atwood begins to break down this encapsulated version of 'fifty ways to write a story.' Maybe it's not Fred with the heart problems, she suggests; maybe it's Madge who has cancer. Maybe she's not kind and understanding; maybe she's guilty and confused. Or maybe Fred is. Maybe Fred, after Madge's death, devotes himself to bird watching rather than volunteer work. We are obviously getting the point that none of this really matters.
-In scenario F, Atwood hammers this point home. 'If you think this is all too bourgeois, make John a revolutionary and Mary a counterespionage agent and see how far that gets you. . . . You'll still end up with A.'
All About Atwood
Margaret Atwood, is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and environmental activist. While she is best known for her work as a novelist, she has also published fifteen books of poetry.Many of her poems have been inspired by myths and fairy tales, which have been interests of hers from an early age.
As the famous writer progressed on, Atwood received many rewards regarding towards her most famous novels. For example, Cat's Eye, was a 1988 novel based on a controversial painter the main character, Elaine, reflects upon. The novel itself was a finalist for the 1988 Governor General's Award and for the 1989 Booker Prize.
'Happy Endings' is one of Margaret Atwood's most frequently-anthologized stories because it is so unusual. In form, it isn't so much a story as an instruction manual on how to write one. In content, it is a powerful observation on life. The story is broken up into six possible life scenarios plus some concluding remarks.
Summary of Main Scenarios
-In scenario A, John meets Mary and they have a perfect life, living together devotedly until they die. ." In this version, everything goes right and the characters have wonderful/perfect lives, and nothing unexpected happens. Which is seen as joke/cliché by the reader because of course this scenario is impossible.
-In scenario B, John sleeps with Mary, whom he doesn't love; he treats her abysmally, she commits suicide, and he marries Madge, whom he does love, and 'everything continues as in A.'
-In scenario C, Mary sleeps with John, who is married to Madge, who has become boring. Mary only sleeps with John because she pities him, and she is really in love with James, who rides a motorcycle. John discovers Mary and James in bed together and shoots them before turning the gun on himself. Madge goes on to marry a nice man named Fred, and we continue as in A.
Video of Atwood's Work
Sustana, Catherine. "Analysis of Margaret Atwood's 'Happy Endings' What Makes a Good Story?" Shortstories.about. About.com. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.
Atwood, Margert. "Chapters A-F." "Happy Endings" Murder in the Dark, 1983. A-F. Print.
Bernardo, Karen “An Analysis Of Margaret Atwood’s ‘Happy Endings’” www.storybites.com/happy-endings/ Web. 17 February 2015
Character List and Analysis
John - He is one of the main characters of the short story. In A, he is in love with Mary and is happily married to her. In B, he doesn't feel the same way Mary does for him as he only uses her for her body. He eventually takes a woman named Madge to a restaurant. In the end, he marries her. In C, he is a middle-aged man married to Madge but is in love with twenty-two year old Mary. One day he sees Mary with another man and shoots both of them before shooting himself.
Mary - She is the main character of the short story. In A, she is happily married to John and had children with him. In B, Mary is in love with John but is saddened with the fact that he doesn't love her. In C, she is a twenty-two-year old who is in love with James. She is shot by John.
James - He is a twenty-two year old whom Mary has feelings for. He isn't ready to settle down and prefers to ride his motorcycle. He wants to be free while he's still young. One day, he and Mary have sex. He is shot by John towards the end. He doesn't appear anywhere else.
Madge - In B, Madge is John's love interest. She is taken to a restaurant and eventually, they get married. In C, she is John's wife. In D, she meets a man named Fred.
Fred - He is the man Madge meets.
Character List and Analysis