Historical Notes: Making the Handmaid’s Tale Real

I think the Historical Notes section in The Handmaid’s Tale is a very “interesting” conclusion of the book, to say the least.  I feel as if this ending is a little anti-climactic to the previous 300 pages of the book.  Before this epilogue, Atwood leaves the reader on the edge of their seat(s); for we do not know what happens to Offred.  I am however a little “torn” with my opinion on this closing section of the book.  While I think it detracts a little from the suspense of not knowing what happens to Offred, I also think it provides a little bit of closure with giving extensive background information on the origins of the story.

I believe the function of the prologue of the book is to make the story seem more believable.  Reading the book from Offred’s point of view makes the story a little bit more real (as opposed to hearing it from a narrator’s point of view), although there is certainly some doubt that the story could ever be real since life is so different in the story than ours.  Hearing the (bulk) of the epilogue from Professor Pieixoto makes the story much more believable (for he could very easily be a real person), and in my mind it makes Offred sound like she actually lived, and it helps her story become even more realistic.  One example that I rather like of the prologue making the story seem realistic is the very last sentence of the book.  “Are there any questions” (Atwood, 311) shows that Professor Pieixoto is addressing a specific audience.  I rather like this ending because of its sense of finality, also because I felt like he was addressing the audience, straight from the book.

 

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One response to “Historical Notes: Making the Handmaid’s Tale Real

  1. You make a great point here. Hearing the history from a professor makes it sound much more plausible. While reading dystopia novels, they often seem too extreme to ever really happen, but by giving the story historical and cultural context at the ends makes it come to life more in our mine. Throughout the story you wonder why and how something like this could be happening and the historical notes provide a good answer. Even though they do not really answer the question of what happened to Offred, it satisfies another curiosity by explaining the society. The society still seems extreme, just like many past societies seem extreme to us today, but it gives us understanding.

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