The conclusion of The Handmaid’s Tale offers us no insight into the fate of our protagonist Offred and the historical notes do not offer us any sort of resolution either. The lack of resolution, of conclusion, in the novel functions to remind the reader that no future is certain. Even though Offred’s destiny was already decided in Gilead as being a handmaid, we can see that this is not her ultimate fate- whether she ends up in Jezebel’s, in the colonies, or if she escapes is uncertain, however, we can see through this ending that a society, even one as totalitarian as Gilead, cannot successfully map the destinies of their population and that no matter how oppressive the society, the society can not account for all variables and will ultimately fail.
Most importantly. the historical ending contradicts much of what Atwood was trying to convince us of in the preceding part of the book. In the first part of the book Atwood writes in a way that we sympathize with Offred and judge Gilead to be an immoral society. In the historical notes however, Peixoto contradicts this by stating “…we must be cautious about passing moral judgement upon the Gileadeans” (Atwood 302) and continues by making excuses for the Giledeans immoral practices by citing declining birthrates. The audience to Peixoto’s lecture seem almost unmoved by Offred’s plight as they talk about the recordings in a nonchalant way, laughing at intervals. They even value some readings from the Commander’s computer more than the moral teachings of Offred’s plight: “What we would give, now, for even twenty pages or so of print-out from Waterford’s private computer!” (Atwood 310). This future society may think of themselves as progressive, but their society still has a core of patriarchy and oppression. The historical ending, in conclusion, has the effect of creating a society much like ours, who believe themselves to be progressive but in fact have seeds of oppression which may grow into totalitarianism if left alone. Atwood urges us to think of Gilead as a possible future and to rethink our own society, as it is, in fact, not progressive but primitive.