the key




Tabiesha Thompson

Course Name: Course #603-102 MQ

Teacher’s Name: Jeff Gandell

October 23rd, 2017


“Happy Endings,” by Kevin Canty, is a fictional story about a man who feels as if he is living his life according to other people’s expectations. The story causes its readers to reflect into their own lives and identify with the various sentiments of the main character, McHenry.  The story is a narrative of McHenry’s life as a hard working businessman and a devoted family man. He lived his life for the intentions of others. As life took an unexpected turn for him, McHenry realized that it was time for him to do what was right for him, which was living his life for him and not for others. This story is fit for those who enjoy inspirational stories about real life issues.

The story opens open with us seeing McHenry’s frustration of him always been watched and living life to please others. He complains that “all his life had lived with someone watching him: his mother, his father, his wife, his daughter, his customers” (32). These people were important figures in his life and so he made sure that he held a good image of what was expected of him out of respect and to make everyone happy. So he did what he thought was best to do at the time, “he learned to look like he was working when he worked. To act like a father when his daughter were around him, to look like a husband when Maria needed a husband” (33). This suggest clearly that he had lived most of his life trying to please others and not himself. But at the age of 59, McHenry found himself out of job, a widow and with no one else to watch him. With his daughter in china, he then decided to try new and exciting things that will help him get over the loneliness of being alone. To me, I think the author is reflecting his sense of loneliness of not having a partner and having these feelings. However, it seems as if  McHenry often feels as if something had been missing in his sex life, ”Ever since he was married, he always felt that he was missing out on something out of his sexual life with his wife. It was a glimpse of something, “but they could never quite bring it home. Fucking he thought” (38). This gives us the impression that McHenry had strong sexual desires that was abnormal from what him and his wife shared, it seems as if their sex life had just been plain old sex.  But because he was a husband, McHenry felt obligated to being faithful to his family.  Now that he was alone, with a strong urge to get laid, he decided that it was time to explore what other sexual pressure awaits him.

This was where we were introduce to the Bangkok Sunshine massage parlor. A place that had a big impact on McHenry’s life. What McHenry had experience at Bangkok was something new and out of the ordinary for him.  He was nervous and worried about what was yet to come and being seen in a place like this. He had never been with another woman other than his wife. Which made him self-conscious and uncomfortable about his nakedness in front of a complete stranger, “he had not had his clothes off in front of anybody but his doctor and Marine An urge to flee arose, was suppressed by an act of will” (35). This we can say shows that he was uncomfortable but still was willing to take this step that was something to him. His encounter with the massage therapist, made him realized how much he had missed the touch from another and maybe it was time for him to move on. McHenry showed signs of mixed emotion. We saw him felt guilt for having such enjoyment but most of all , free “What if it was something beautiful that he had shut himself off from his whole life” (38). This shows that he allowed himself to accept this new experience of enjoyment. Such pleasure lead to him taking regular trips to the parlor without the worries of being seen while come to him pursuing his own happiness.

Furthermore, the author uses the changes of the seasons in the story, to help relate to the transformation of Mc Henry character.  Season such as spring played an important role in the story.  The seasons contain symbolic of that of what we saw of McHenry transformation be happy with himself.  “Spring has a good reputation, thought, driving through spitting snow’’; “just a hard season” (34). For me, when it snows in spring, I think to myself that the weather is confuse and does not know what it want to do. So I think that this suggest, McHenry was at a cross road in his life and was confuse about taking that step towards making a decision that will forever change is life. Another strong symbolism in the story, was the birdwatching. We see how the author uses the imagery of the birdwatching to symbolize a turning point in his life. McHenry came to the realization of how being free was something beautiful. “As they watched, some invisible impulse ran through the flock at the far edge and they rose in one movement and circled through the air, blocking out half the sky in white movement, black wing tips. Okay, McHenry thought. This was worth it. All his beautiful Life, this excess, generosity” (42).  This image shows that, he had accept the beauty of his freedom, a change of the situation and him starting a new page in his life.  By the end of the story, the author uses the imagery of warm sunlight to symbolize as a positive change in McHenry’s life. “And then he was standing, blinking in the warm sunlight, alone” (43). This gives us a feeling of comfort, hope and encouragement that McHenry had accepted the changed he had made,  happy live his life for no other than himself.


The author uses similarly changes in McHenry life to his life, of them both losing someone. Everything had been fixed in his ways. The details is well written, it makes a reader like me reflects upon my own life. On whether or not I’m truly happy and whether or not I’m living the life that I want.


Work cited:


Canty. K . “Happy Endings”. The Best American Short Stories 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2015.