What does "Happy Endings" suggest about the elements we consider important to a satisfying life?

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teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Atwood's "Happy Endings" suggests that the elements we consider important to having a satisfying life are all absurd.  In story A, John and Mary appear to be happy because they possess the "ideal" elements to a happy lifestyle:  fabulous jobs, money, children, a large home, and personal luxuries.  However, at the end of the story, they just die and the story comes to an end.  As the stories progress, the characters' lives become a bit more complicated, but they still always end up at story A, and they die in the end.  At the end of "Happy Endings," the narrator challenges the reader to engage with all that happens in the middle--the journey is the interesting part.  By the end, all one can say is the fact of what has happened, not the "how" or the "why" of the situation.  In story A, how do all these things make the couple happy.  Why?  They're really not happy at all and have no actual story to tell.

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