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,

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