The Elusive Happy Ending

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Happy endings are hard to come by in great literature, especially in stories that center on affluent American suburbs and their inhabitants. Over at the Atlantic, writer Ted Thompson looks at the hopeful and redemptive (but still believable) dramatic climax of John Cheever’s “The Housebreaker of Shady Hill”:

This is one of the things that’s so apparent when you’re reading Cheever: his openness to redemptive beauty. His suburbs aren’t corrupt, awful places. They’re not places that have dark, ugly roots that he’s trying to expose—which is often the basic project in the subgenre of American suburban fiction (and film and TV). Cheever’s world is one that, no matter how buttoned-up it may be, is continuously ruptured by unexpected beauty.


Marisa Siegel lives, writes, and edits near NYC. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Mills College in Oakland, CA. Her essay “Inherited Anger” appears in the anthology Burn It Down (Seal Press, 2019) and her debut poetry chapbook, Fixed Stars, is forthcoming from Burrow Press in 2022. She is editor-in-chief and owner of The Rumpus. Follow her on Twitter at @marisasaystweet. More from this author →