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"Happy Endings" by Margaret Atwood

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"Happy Endings" by Margaret Atwood essay
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“Happy Endings” is an interesting short story by Margaret Atwood, which aims at showing that the end of a narrative is not as important as the middle. I choose this story because as a reader I understand clearly that, the middle of the story is the fundamental part which is unique. Furthermore, the narrative itself is unique as compared to others because it has multiple plots, and each story has a different version. The purpose of many versions is to ensure that everyone is satisfied, and Atwood avoided gender discrimination in her writing (Atwood 289). Nonetheless, “Happy Endings” reflects individual’s life where, one falls in love, marries, owns a home, gets kids, retires and eventually dies. On the other hand, I decided on a story by Ernest Hemingway “Hills Like White Elephants” because I find it more complicated as well as symbolic. The narrative has a deeper and contradicting meaning, and makes it difficult for readers to understand its content. At first I was puzzled of the basis of the entire narrative, but it took an exceptional perception to realize that the couple was arguing about having an abortion.

The main focus of this paper is comparing and contrasting two stories from different authors, “Happy Endings and Hills like White Elephants.” However, the goal is on interacting with the fiction’s environment to understand how perfect each author focuses on literature setting. Furthermore, the paper compares two stories to choose and understand how the subjects connect in a meaningful manner. The purpose thereby, is not on stating the obvious, but rather illuminates subtle differences and unexpected similarities. However, the paper uses literature settings such as imagery, symbolism, characters, and gender differences to understand how the two stories share various properties. To be precise, the paper aims at making the two papers more interesting by illustrating how the stories are different. In “Happy Endings” most readers might find it contradicting, since it is one story with different contexts in it. Thus, the paper creates a clear understanding as to why Margaret Atwood decided on the title and the content (Atwood 290). Contrary, Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” also has its uniqueness by using symbolism which readers find contradicting the narrative’s meaning (Wyche 59-70). A research strategy to identify the comparison between Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills like White Elephants” and Margret Atwood “Happy Endings” will be formulated, and reviewed journals from EBSCO data base and academic sources used to inquire on all the required information in relation to literally setting in the two stories.

The sources used were based within the time range of 2009-2018 to make sure the data is up to date. The terms to consider in finding articles and academic sources are, symbolism, metaphor, literally setting in “Hills Like White Elephants” and “Happy Endings.” The data will be retrieved from an article if only it clearly illustrates the literal connection between the two stories. The methods to use in this paper are essential and effective, since they determine the quality of evidence used. The use of many sources is important since it will allow more information to be accessed. Nonetheless, the advanced technology that develops yearly will make it easier in filtering the required data.

“Happy Endings” by Margret Atwood and “Hills like White Elephants” by Hemingway are two short stories, with different meaning. In Atwood’s narrative, the entire context uses satire in a way that she makes fun of a naive conception that an individual can have a simple happy ending (Mead 39-47). She reflects the story to normal human life in each of the plots, and readers are directed to the message that people need and must pass through obstacles in life. In the narrative by Atwood, both genders are touched in both negative and positive ways. However, her core message in ensuring both genders are fair is that life does not appear according to our expectations, but every incidence in life has a source and a purpose. To be precise, in section ‘A’ John and Mary die happily, but in other sections death does not create a happy ending. Margret Atwood short story is interesting and full of symbolism, and in a summary of the plot it has six different outcomes. Thus, the stories end differently and make them appear sarcastic since all go against different structures in a culture. In “Happy Endings” by Margret Atwood every character is used as a symbol of a social structure that the writer aims to criticize (Mead 42). Atwood perfectly uses John as a stereotype symbol that represents a male who is capable of everything. James is also used as a symbolic feature of the future generation, which is far lost of becoming cultivated individuals. However, the future generation represented by James is depicted as destructive and materialistic. Furthermore, women are also used as symbol in Atwood’s story whose core perspective is to get married, settle and bear children. In the end all the characters are a pillar of an existing culture that we live in.

Similarly, “Hills like White Elephants” by Hemingway is a story also based on the relationship between a man and a woman. Like in Atwood’s narrative, Hemingway also uses disagreements between the two characters, but on their conversation directed to Jig the female over an operation that is supposed to be a great significant on their relationship (Hemingway 402). Hemingway’s tale has two essential symbols, drinks and hills that aids with a clear understanding of it meaning (Wyche 59-70). The story begins with a vivid description of their surrounding, that the two characters were surrounded by hills and fields, thus it illustrates more on the couple’s situation. On the other hand, Atwood’s tale also begins with a vivid description, as the writer creates a perfect life for both Mary and John in section ‘A’. However, both authors create a symbolic aspect of women struggling to attain equality against their male partners. The symbolic act is raised from the theme of domestic conflict which is a life choice that cannot be undone. Furthermore, the relationship between both stories is generated from choices characters make. Whereby Hemingway uses the Jig to act against what his male partner chooses. On the other hand, “Happy Endings” themes are created by different individual’s choices, which generate an impact on other people’s lives. Cheating is also a symbolic aspect in Atwood’s narrative though it is being dominated by a single person in a relationship.

Both stories have imagery that makes them easy to understand, because the authors ensure that whatever was left unstated would be easily understood in the fiction work. According to Hemingway’s story, the image is created along white hills, which he does not illustrate why they are white. The image is used to conjure something up in the sun, but perhaps it is the pregnant belly of the American girl. However, metaphor is highly utilized in Hemingway’s story because, despite his setting on a hot place, shade is depicted as little (Wyche 59-70). On the other hand Atwood also highly uses metaphor in her work, when she uses six scenarios in one narrative (Mead 40-47). The image is viewed in domestic violence which is contributed by both genders. Thus, the six stories are an image of several issues marriage life goes through and their significant. On the other hand, Hemingway also uses a unique writing style which draws many readers to his short story. “Hills like white Elephants” is surely an attractive and profound story just like Atwood’s.

However, his writing is complicated because unlike Atwood, his story has a hidden element in the dialogue structure between the two characters featured. In writing Hemingway puts more focus on literally setting using symbolism, dialogue and also hidden meaning that drives readers to a different level. The author uses alcohol as a huge symbol, where a couple sits in a bar though in a lonely mood, they orders drinks. Despite the woman being pregnant, which seems a bother to the man, she still takes alcohol, and the writer does not illustrate whether or not if she cares about it. However, from this instance, it is obvious that the man is sure of his decision on abortion. Whereas, Atwood bases her narrative on domestic conflicts, which impacts from relationship issues. The story is on things that happen in our real life, and in most cases death provides the happy ending. Thus, the author focuses on both the mechanism of gender stereotyping. However the themes portray marriage and love relationship, illustrating values and elements in the society. Atwood reflects in her story things that marriage fulfillments bring and their significance.

Contrary, “Hills like White Elephants” by Hemingway is a story set in a unique style whereby; he uses irony, short stories and literature. It is ironic how the writer sets his charades in a mood of argument, and the basis of their disagreement is on killing an unborn child (Hemingway 33-90). However, Hemingway’s narrative has a deeper and contradicting meaning, and makes it difficult for readers to understand its content. At first I was puzzled of the basis of the entire narrative, but it took an exceptional perception to realize that the couple was arguing about having an abortion (Wyche 59-78). The argument is the story’s plot and the male domination is found as the primarily and obvious choice in the final decision. In this story, argument is used to solve domestic conflict, and the author does it perfectly by beginning the setting with the couple settled under a shade having drinks. On the other hand, Atwood narrative depicts death as the main resolution to relationship matter. In version B of Atwood’s story, she uses character development and the incident witnessed is a bit painful as compared to version A. The narrative itself is unique as compare to others because it has multiple plots, and each story has a different version. The purpose of many versions is to ensure that everyone is satisfied, the author avoided gender discrimination in her writing.

Margret Atwood story differs from Hemingway’s in the setting since, rather than focusing on plot which is a core art in narratives, she begins by exploring the theme. The story is not based on story telling it is about the art of fiction, since the author ensures that the characters take chances. At the beginning of the story, Atwood provides readers with six options on whether to continue reading the rest of her narrative. However, in version ‘A’ it is so predictable for the readers, and less is expected to happen. However, the author perfectly used the best mood to attract readers’ attention, by implicating no twist or much drama in the first section. Furthermore, in version ‘B’ of Atwood’s tale the mood changes as life is depicted to be full of complications, and the plot changes where love affair is illustrated as unequal. However, the writer considers more interest in her story unlike in the first section which was more obvious, by describing Mary and John characters as pathetic and being in a dysfunctional relationship. Contrary, Hemingway’s narrative is set in a complicated but obvious manner, by making it more predictable for readers. It is through the story’s setting that mood and tone in this story are created. Unlike in Margret Atwood’s tale where she is part of the story, Hemingway uses the third person in narrating his story over a love relationship between a man and a girl (Wyche 59-70). His story is flavored by the usage of symbols and metaphor to provide a vivid description. However, the storyline is not easily identified since the author uses heavy dialogue throughout the story. Thus, the location plays an essential role as well as the characters making the story flow.

Analysis Of Happy Endings by Margaret Atwood

From the time of birth, females are raised to adhere to gender roles that are considered ‘traditional’ in relationships according to societal standards. In a mostly male society, women are demanded to know how to cook, clean, look attractive, and to be sexually prepared to keep her man happy. In ‘Happy Endings,’ Atwood sets up an interaction between John and Mary. She lets the reader choose between six different circumstances that could happen after their first encounter, but she says that that option A is the only one if you prefer a happy ending. The story explores the harsh stereotyping of women, the double standards imposed by society, and the traditional idea of a man’s and woman’s place through the form of short stories that show different outcomes.

In the story ‘B’ of ‘Happy Endings,’ Margaret Atwood uses Mary, to show what a woman typically brings to a relationship. She shows this by having Mary be submissive, attractive, and passive in a relationship with a man she wants to marry. She does this because she has been conditioned to believe that she needs to be married to achieve the ultimate happiness. Mary pwho desparelty wants John, lets him take advantage of her again and again. She gives herself to him in hopes that one day, his feelings of lust will morph into feelings of love.

‘He comes to her apartment twice a week and she cooks him dinner, you’ll notice that he doesn’t even consider her worth the price of a dinner out, and after he’s eaten dinner he fucks her and after that he falls asleep’.

She cooks and cleans for him and lets him use her as his sex toy. The author is using this scenario to show us how if a man does not want to commit to a woman, it is acceptable in society. Also, it is not uncommon for women to trade sex for a man’s time and attention. The moment Mary realizes that she is over John is when John is seen taking another woman out to dinner. He never took her out to eat. ‘Mary collects all the sleeping pills and a half a bottle of sherry. You can see what kind of a woman she is by the fact that it’s not even whiskey’. At the end of the situation, Mary fantasizes about attempting to take her own life. Only to be rescued like a damsel in distress, by John. Unfortunately, John does not come for her, and the amount of pills she swallows mixed with the alcohol kills her. It seems that Mary’s suicide, shows how she wants her image to be unaffected when John finally comes around.

In scenario C, Atwood shows one of the double standards that are applied to women when it comes to relationships. ‘John, who is an older man, falls in love with Mary, and Mary, who is only twenty-two, feels sorry for him because he’s worried about his hair falling out’ (210). In this scenario, Mary meets John, who satisfies her need for love and affection. He is a married man with two kids and a ‘satisfying’ life. ‘John tells Mary how important she is to him, but of course he can’t leave his wife because a commitment is a commitment’ (211). He tells Mary that he loves her but he cannot leave his wife because he made a commitment. When he finds Mary with James, who is her age and whom she finds exciting and engaging, he shoots both of them out of rage and then kills himself. ‘He purchases a handgun, saying he needs it for target practice…and shoots the two of them and himself’ (211). Atwood is drawing the reader’s attention to how Mary pays the ultimate price for doing what makes her happy. However, when John cheats on the mother of his children behind her back, it is an entirely different situation and approved by society.

In scenario E, Atwood shows the idea that a woman’s purpose should be to be a caregiver and provider. ‘Fred has a bad heart. The remainder of the story is about how kind and understanding they both are until Fred dies’. After her husband dies she devotes her life to charity work. This goes to show that Madge’s life was meaningless after her husband’s death.’If you like, it can be ‘Madge,’ ‘cancer,’ ‘guilty and confused,’ and ‘bird watching’. Atwood also brings up that women must accept the death of her partner with ‘kindness and understanding,’ while men are allowed to grieve the loss of their partner, and spend their remaining life bird watching. This is Atwood’s way of showing how women are expected to lead a life of service while men can pursue whatever pleases them.

Every version of the story goes back to version A the ‘happy ending.’ As Atwood explains, no matter what the details are, ‘You’ll still end up with A’. She makes us believe through a series of attempts that a reader could choose B or C and get something different from A. However, in F, she finally explains that even if we went through the whole alphabet, we would still end up with A. ‘John and Mary Die. John and Mary die. John and Mary die’. After that she then goes to say that no matter the ending, beginnings are always more fun. Completely throwing light to the entire situation as if it didn’t matter.

The story provides a view of various male-dominated constraints on women in each of the options, and Atwood allows the women to play precisely into their stereotypical roles. In ‘Happy Endings,’ Atwood satirizes the typical submissive behavior of a woman in a relationship; this is done to exemplify the deep-seated programming of women by society concerning how she is supposed to be in a relationship with a man.

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