We shall begin at the end, with Margaret Atwood – the Canadian star author – who discusses sexuality, gender and feminist thought, all woven within her unique narratives. Atwood is renowned for her transcending fiction. ‘Happy Endings’ from her collection, Murder in the Dark was written during the second wave of feminism, during the 1980s. Atwood views her work as a “lens” to society (Tolan 2007, p. 8). Fiction contributes to reality, may we read to renew our perception of the world we live in.
This experimental piece of short fiction will act as impetus. ‘Happy Endings’ centres itself on relationships and how they differ with each scenario. Romantic storylines often follow a formula which routinely ends in happily ever after. Atwood challenges this exact idea as she constructs multiple possible scenarios from A to F.
All including death, the most realistic ending of all:
“John and Mary die. John and Mary die. John and Mary die” (Atwood 2010, p. 112).
Not all short fiction share this same structure, quite the opposite. However, short stories must foster the same level of intrigue as a chaptered novel. Atwood uses three pages to cut to the chase, so to speak. Each scenario is cyclical to scenario A, an introduction which suggests life begins with marriage. Atwood characterises John and Mary in third person communicating the simplicity of scenario A. The repetition of “stimulating and challenging” implies John and Mary have a mediocre sex life, lucrative jobs and post-retirement “hobbies” (Atwood 2010, p.112).
The realism is both devastating, yet informing on what readers prefer, in regard to the romantic plot lines of heterosexual relationships. A series of endings gives the reader agency to what ending they favour. Atwood forces the reader to take part (socialise) within the story. In doing so, readers can understand their inclination towards a particular genre.
Personally, John as a “revolutionary” and Mary as a “counterespionage agent” sounds like the ideal tale of forbidden love in the time of war (Atwood 2010, p. 115). What about you, (D) a survival story or (B) a tragic love story? In order for you to take charge in your reading you must know what you are interested in. This awareness allows us to begin, so let’s get reading!