The Atlantic

When a Marriage Plot Doesn’t Mean a Happy Ending

Looking back on a troubled union, Jenny Offill's Dept. of Speculation nails the mundane intimacy and emotional complexity of married life after the "happily ever after."
Source: Matt Champlin / Getty

Ever since the days of Jane Austen, pop culture consumers have been drawn to stories about female protagonists who find “happily ever after” in marriage and motherhood. (See: the media spectacles surrounding Kate Middleton’s fairytale wedding and now fairytale baby; the storylines of best-selling novels like Helen Fielding’s Austen-inspired Bridget Jones novels and the works of Jennifer Weiner; films and TV shows like 2011’s Friends With Kids and even HBO’s Sex and the City—a series originally deemed celebratory of single women.)

The “marriage plot” has, thankfully, been scrutinized and questioned by some of the aforementioned works—and was perhaps most specifically critiqued by Jeffrey Eugenides’s best-selling 2011 novel . Nevertheless, selective omission has successfully kept this perfect,

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic6 min read
The Best Athlete Americans Have Never Heard Of
American pro athletes face pressure to stick to sports. Australia’s David Pocock has a different idea.
The Atlantic3 min read
Alone In The Dark In The Bay Area
Earlier this week, Pacific Gas & Electric cut power to hundreds of thousands of Bay Area residents to mitigate the risk of fires. The city of Berkeley put out some vital information for those who might be affected: “If you are power-dependent for med
The Atlantic5 min readPolitics
The NBA-China Disaster Is a Stress Test for Capitalism
On August 19, the definition of a company in America changed. The Business Roundtable, a U.S. lobbying group that represents nearly 200 companies, issued a statement proclaiming that the “purpose” of a business in 2019 was no longer to look out merel