Happy Endings Questions and Answers
by Margaret Atwood

Start Your Free Trial

Discuss the purpose of the short story "Happy Endings" by Margaret Atwood. 

The purpose of Atwood's story is to cause the reader to think critically about how plots are constructed and highlight the ways in which male/female relationships have been overdetermined by certain narrative patterns.

Expert Answers info

Octavia Cordell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)


calendarEducator since 2016

write1,111 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Atwood has several purposes in this "story." One is to investigate the nature of plots. Atwood suggests that plots are circular, and while there can be many variations on the story of Madge, Mary, and John, as represented by the different lettered options, they all end up in the same place, the only "authentic" ending, which is "John and Mary die."

The circularity of John and Mary's story is also meant to underline the broken nature of male/female relationships. Atwood suggests that is doesn't matter if Mary commits suicide as a ploy to get John to marry her, as in B, or if John murders Mary and then kills himself in a fit of self pity, as in C. The trend for characters like John and Mary is to have a life like A, which Atwood suggests is no more "authentic" than the events in B or C.

Another purpose of the story is to examine the function of fiction and how it dehumanizes characters. While Atwood argues that it doesn't matter if B or C (or even D) is chosen (since the ending will always...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 862 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

carol-davis eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2004

write1,291 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

check Approved by eNotes Editorial