Margaret Atwood has remarked that that she had never heard the term “metafiction” when she wrote “Happy Endings” and was a little disappointed that there was “a name for such aberrations.” The first part of the story is barely longer than a haiku, and rather resembles one on the page:
John and Mary meet.
What happens next?
If you want a happy ending, try A.
The reader is then given six possible continuations, labeled A, B, C, D, E and F. A is a perfectly bourgeois happy ending, in which John and Mary lead exemplary lives of peace and prosperity, then die. The other five possible endings are increasingly messy and complex, including unrequited love, infidelity and other unsatisfactory elements. The author then points out that all the endings are the same in any case:
John and Mary die. John and Mary die. John and Mary die.
Atwood continues by saying that beginnings are more fun than endings, but true connoisseurs favor the stretch in between.
One of the main ideas here is that the...
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