Therefore, the revolutionary plotline is window dressing, serving merely to distract the reader from the fact that the underlying story – the real story – is devoid of conflict and therefore not compelling.
Atwoods other point in Happy Endings is that the endings themselves are mere window dressing. Readers typically favor a happy ending, but the happy ending should not be the point of the story. The story lies not in the ending at all, but in the hows and whys of the characters and their actions. Her choice of device to illustrate this point is unfortunate, however. She decides that to make her point all endings are “John and Mary die.” This is a straw man, since the ultimate end we all face is not the ending constructed in most stories. Atwoods point is that all other endings are contrived, but this ending of hers is equally contrived since the world doesnt end when somebody dies. The true end is the end of the universe itself, not the end of the characters lives. A story is not necessarily a life story, but a snapshot in time, fictional or otherwise.
There is, however, good rationale for Atwood to seek to make this point. Her primary argument regarding the value of cause and effect is a valid argument. Stories are not about endings any more than they are about the sequence of actions leading up to the endings. Writers should not focus on their endings so much as they should focus on cause and effect for their characters actions.
In removing focus from endings, particularly the perceived need for a happy ending, the emphasis of the story is shifted to more important parts. This shift takes the focus away from a plot that is based on a series of actions and places the focus on the reasons behind those actions. This is opposite to what occurs when a writer places emphasis on an ending. The plot then becomes a robotic series of steps, with the only objective being to traverse the path between the chosen beginning point and the desired ending point. Such stories, Atwood contends, are ultimately less compelling.
Together, the six sketches contained in Happy Endings illustrate a core point regarding the value of cause and effect. The stories with the conflict are the most interesting and in theory can be fleshed out the most. These stories illustrate the way in which conflict arises in relationships. Without mutual love, conflict can occur. The heart of the story is in the reasons why that mutual love does not occur, the question of why the characters remain in the relationship despite the apparently conflict, and the question of how that conflict manifests itself. Story B. shows the conflict limited to one person while Story C. shows an example of the conflict spreading to several people..