University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
In the short story Happy Endings by Margaret Atwood the author displays how plot can affect characterization, or the reader’s perceptions of characters, by showing several different scenarios using the same characters but different plot lines. For example, plot B, although it uses the same characters, creates very different perceptions of those characters than the ones created in plot A. In plot A, John and Mary appear to be in love, and they appear to be happy.
The plot seems to indicate this; “John and Mary fall in love and get married. They both have worthwhile jobs which they find exciting and challenging. “They buy a charming house. From the sequence of events revealed, we are led to believe that John and Mary are two ordinary people with good lives and a healthy relationship. However, in plot B, this perception changes, even though it is told with the same characters. In this story, the reader perceives John as a selfish jerk who shamelessly uses Mary, and Mary as a poor girl with a weak will. “Mary falls in love with John but John doesn’t fall in love with Mary. He merely uses her body for selfish pleasure and ego gratification of a tepid kind. ” This sequence of events leads the reader to conclude very different things about the characters than in the first plot.
The plot structure is set so the audience is always changing his or her perceptions. There are some interesting themes that develop from this short story. One theme could be the idea of what the middle class values as important. Version A seems to sum up what the middle class expects life to be and thinks life should be. Another theme is the Inevitability of Death mentioned in version F. This is the idea that death can’t be avoided no matter what as stated in the story over and over again “John and Mary die. ” This is definitely the main thought behind the entire short story.