In an attempt to switch gears, see I will be teaching both Environmental Science and Literature back to back this term, I have added a few new stories to my line up, including Atwood’s experimental “Happy Endings.” I added this story to the day I have my students debate the idea of story, or try to answer the question: What is story? So, “Happy Endings” will sit on my syllabus along with three other stories, “Girl,” “House on
“Happy Endings” is a story told in six parts, A through F. Each part complicates the previous; however, to read through to the end, is to experience life beyond happy endings. If you are so brave as to dare B through F, you will find the mud that turns the water of fiction into literature. It is one thing to simply layout one event after another, setting life in motion, but without pain, desire, and anguish, who will – who can – believe in happiness, or something as painfully moving as love.
The question that my students will have to answer for themselves is weather or not they believe “Happy Endings” is a story. I believe it is a story, but like “Girl,” the unconventional format will challenge their conceptions and push them to consider specific details and elements (or at least that is my hope). I won’t have long to wait to hear their reactions, only until Tuesday, and then I see if there is a happy ending to my assigning the story – even when I know that, “The only authentic ending is the one provided here: John and Mary die. John and Mary die. John and Mary die.”
Atwood, Margaret. “Happy Endings.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. 10th ed. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia.