Margaret Atwood seems to be showing her distaste for the boring and predictable way in which the majority of stories are written, or even at the way a majority of lives are lived, while at the same time presenting her own story in a very creative and interesting way. Atwood seems to be giving the reader the basic outline of a story and allowing them to interact with it and almost choose the plot they would like to follow, but “If you want a happy ending, try A.”, while alluding that other endings are not so happy, although possibly less boring. In each story, labeled alphabetically A-F, Atwood describes how each characters’ lives are lived but all stories end as they did in A. Some of the stories tell of love gained or love lost; love given but not reciprocated. Heartache, suicide, crimes of passion, and they all end in death.
Atwood speaks of “the stretch in the middle”, and I believe after ...view middle of the document...
John then marries his mistress and life ends happily for him but horrible for Mary. In the next plot, the roles are reversed when John is married to Madge but becomes bored with her, so he has an affair with Mary who is much younger. Mary sleeps with him out of pity but does not love him; she eventually has an affair with James who is younger and more fun. James doesn’t want to settle down, but Mary thinks that she will talk him into it although she will never get the chance when John walks in on them in bed. John ends up killing Mary and James in a jealous rage and then turns the gun on himself. Madge then finds Fred and gets married, and their stories continue.
It seems unfortunate, but the plots that surrounding sorrow, anguish, depression, murder and death are the most interesting. The happy lives where the characters experience no complications are monotonous and boring. Some of these plotlines could be advanced to actually become a story you would want to spend time reading. How did John and Madge meet? Why did John love Madge in the first place if he now considers her boring and has to go to Mary? Is it just because she’s younger and more attractive, or does she make him feel younger? John must suspect Mary’s feelings aren’t reciprocal; did he suspect Mary was seeing James and was the murder-suicide pre-meditated? John had the gun on his person for a reason, I think he went in fully aware of what the outcome might be.
It’s difficult to read the story as if there is any story to be told the first time around, if you really want an idea of how the plots unravel a lot of imagination is required and a couple of re-readings are necessary. The characters are tedious; they are cookie-cutter style with uninteresting names and no real personality or backstory other than what Atwood describes to the reader, and she does so minimally. The interaction between the characters is minor and there is no dialog at all. You’ll have to guess what each person is thinking as they are carrying out their seemingly predictable actions in response to each major event.