Margaret Atwood is usually regarded as Canada’s major living writer. “Happy Endings” is an example of “metafiction,” an experimental short story in which an author emphasizes the technical methods of writing, not the narrative. The “plot” of Atwood’s story analyzes the art of fiction-writing, particularly how a story ends. Wittily, she presents six stories which exhibit various types of married relationships (mutually supportive, male- or female-dominated, or ones where the couple is opposed by a natural disaster, a personal illness, or a societal force), all of which illustrate that the title “Happy Endings” is being used ironically. My handout, which has blanks that your students can fill in, may be used as a homework assignment or an in-class activity. An answer key is provided on a separate page at the end of the handout.
Prepared by Professor William Tarvin, Ph.D., who has published many articles on literature in scholarly journals.