Happy Endings


Margaret Atwood

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Houses Symbol Icon

Throughout the story, houses are used as a symbol of “happy endings” consisting of romantic success and marriage, a suburban nuclear family, and personal and economic prosperity. In scenario A, one of the staples of John and Mary’s “happy ending” is that they are able to afford a “charming house.” Similarly, in scenario C, John and his wife Madge purchase a house just before real estate values go up, enabling them to continue to live a happy life without economic precarity. In scenario D, the characters must survive a tidal wave, which threatens the “charming house” by the seashore. In all of the scenarios, the house also represents a living situation typical of marriage. Like the institution of marriage itself, the house represents a fixed ending to any story, as it permanently situates the characters in the story not only in terms of their relationships with one another, but also in a physical location from which they will not move. The house symbolizes prosperity both economically and in terms of personal relationships, but it also hints at the suburban sterility of a typical “happy ending.”

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Houses Symbol Timeline in Happy Endings

The timeline below shows where the symbol Houses appears in Happy Endings. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Happy Endings
Sex and Gender Theme Icon
Relationships and Marriage Theme Icon
Storytelling Tropes Theme Icon
...in the love and marry, and end up with a “happy ending” consisting of a house with rising real estate value, children, a “stimulating and challenging” sex life, and “stimulating and... (full context)