Happy Endings is an oddly structured, metafictional story; a series of possible scenarios all leading the characters to the same ending. Atwood uses humour and practical wisdom to critique both romantic fiction and contemporary society, and to make the point that it is not the end that is important, it is the journey that truly matters in both life and writing.
Metafiction is fiction that deals, often playfully and self-referentially, with the writing of fiction or its conventions (website 1). Margaret Atwood is clearly mocking the conventions of romantic fiction throughout the entire story, beginning with the third line "if you want a happy ending, try A." Each scenario includes the idea that "you'll still end up with A" despite the rest of the story, and this indicates that romantic fiction lacks creativity and gives us the ending we want and expect; a happy one. Atwood is also taking a stab at the readers of this genre, who are not only satisfied, but blissfully content with an ending that may not be realistic, but is easy and fun to take in. With statements like "this is the thin part of the plot, but it can be dealt with later" in scenario C, she demonstrates how romantic fiction is full of fluff. In scenario D she writes "they clasp each other, wet and dripping and grateful" a wonderfully hokey idea. Situation E clearly shows how this genre lacks character development, and one could fill in the blanks with manufactured ideas to form a piece of work. She considers romantic fiction and the belief that these lame stories are realistic, ridiculous.
The very structure of Atwood's story is a critique of literary form, as she completely abandons convention. This piece has no real structure, and plots are laid out as a list of options. She dispenses with the plot line that usually provides the skeleton for fiction. Margaret weaves her personal commentary throughout the scenarios and has a small round up at the end. This is by far the most striking aspect of Happy Endings, and even if her opinion goes unnoticed, one can not ignore the framework of this story. There are no paragraphs. There is no beginning, middle end. There is no grand introduction or stunning finale. The lack of form in this work stems from the lack of structure and depth of romantic fiction. Atwood feels this type of writing lacks emotion and conviction and can be easily thrown together and kept together by a few clichés and stereotypes. A hodgepodge of cheesy ideas that are malleable and easily interchangeable. She shakes things up by not organizing the text in sequential order, and events are not connected or presented in a straightforward, chronological order. This is a short story that lacks all the common characteristics of a short story.
One must assume that Atwood pities those who live their lives like a...