Margaret Atwood’s Happy Endings: A Warning to Women Essay

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In Margaret Atwood’s short story, “Happy Endings” she establishes a meeting between a man named John and woman named Mary. She lets the reader choose between six hypothetical situations that could occur after their initial meeting, but she notes that that option A is the one to try if you prefer a happy ending. In Option A John and Mary are the “perfect couple”. They both have good jobs, they marry and then have kids when they can afford it, they retire and both find meaningful hobbies and then they die. The other five options are paralleled to option A however Atwood’s portrayal of the women in the options provides an alternate meaning of the story.
Option B strays away from the perfect happy ending and sets up a relationship of
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She morns his death and then marries a man named Fred and they live out the “perfect marriage” described in option an A until a tidal wave destroys their home. They survive but in Option E Fred dies due bad heart conditions and Madge devotes herself to charity work until she dies. Option F is where Atwood states that you can make John and Mary characterize Mary and John in any way but you will still end up with some version of Option A. The portrayal of women throughout the story seems to be based on the Feminist scholars argument that “woman’s lives have been limited by constraints placed on them by male dominated societies.” The story provides a view of various male dominated constraints on women in each of the options and Atwood allows the women play exactly into their stereotypically roles. Mary in option B is a delusional woman clinging onto a man who disrespects her yet she willingly submits to him and even hopes that she can gain his love with constant sex and home cooked meals and is so distraught over him that she kills herself. In option C Mary is portrayed as a young woman who was willing to sleep married man for the sake of not hurting his feelings and she is in love with James only because he has a motorcycle. In D Marge is married again as if she cannot live without a man in her life.

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