Happy Endings (short story)

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"Happy Endings" is a short story by Margaret Atwood. It was first published in a 1983 Canadian collection, Murder in the Dark,[1] and highlighted during the nomination period for the 2017/2018 Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize.[2]

The short story includes six different stories, labeled A to F, which each quickly summarize the lives of its characters, eventually culminating in death. The names of characters recur throughout the stories and the stories reference each other (e.g. "everything continues as in A"), challenging narrative literary conventions.

In addition, the story explores themes of domesticity, welfare, and success.


He is one of the main characters of the short story. In A, he is in love with Mary and is happily married to her. In B, he doesn't feel the same way Mary does for him as he only uses her for her body. He eventually takes a woman named Madge to a restaurant. In the end, he marries her. In C, he is a middle-aged man married to Madge but is in love with twenty-two-year-old Mary. One day he sees Mary with another man and shoots both of them before shooting himself.
She is the main character of the short story. In A, she is happily married to John and had children with him. In B, Mary is in love with John but is saddened with the fact that he doesn't love her. In C, she is a twenty-two-year old who is in love with James. She is shot by John.
He is a twenty-two-year-old whom Mary has feelings for. He isn't ready to settle down and prefers to ride his motorcycle. He wants to be free while he's still young. One day, he and Mary have sex. He is shot by John towards the end. He doesn't appear anywhere else.
In B, Madge is John's love interest. She is taken to a restaurant and eventually, they get married. In C, she is John's wife. In D, she meets a man named Fred.
He is the man Madge meets. They both have sex and then die.


  1. ^ (PDF) https://web.archive.org/web/20130902172131/http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~rebeccal/lit/238f11/pdfs/HappyEndings_Atwood.pdf. Archived from the originalFree access subject to limited trial, subscription normally required (PDF) on 2013-09-02.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ "Classic Stories No. 5: MARGARET ATWOOD, 'Happy Endings'". www.galleybeggar.co.uk. Galley Beggar Press. 2017. Archived from the original on 14 January 2018. Retrieved 13 January 2018.