Historical Notes and Questioning in The Handmaid’s Tale

The closing section of The Handmaid’s Tale gives important insight into the true context of the story, ultimately answering some details about Offred’s life. Although this is an important closure section of the book, I also feel like it causes the reader to feel slightly more curious in a way about other happenings in the rest of the book, in that it gives more information about the context of the story such as Offred and her life as well as the Republic of Gilead. Through important details in this section, the reader finds out key information, which adds to the overall background information and origin of the story. This information is important because since the story is from the narration of Offred, she may have not known key elements about her society and other aspects of life in the Republic of Gilead that were outside her perspective. It’s interesting to consider how the story was passed on as well. Offred recorded her version of the story on tapes which we find out in Professor Pieixoto’s keynote address were safely hidden in a safe house used in the Underground Femaleroad. The reader never finds out what happens to Offred, as Professor Piexoto addresses by saying “as for the ultimate fate of our narrator, it remains obscure” (Atwood 284). By looking at this quote as insight into the novel, it shows how although there is closure in the realization that Offred is gone, it also brings up more questions about obscure situations underlying in the story.




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2 responses to “Historical Notes and Questioning in The Handmaid’s Tale

  1. siegvald

    There are definitely a lot more questions raised in the Notes section. I could see how there was closure in regard to knowing that the terrible society in which Offred lived was by no means existing after a certain period of time. But I did not get the closure at all in regard to Offred’s personal life. All we know is she got out of Gilead. In my view though, it doesn’t really tie in to the end of the story: was that her true escape– when we heard from her last, when they were taking her out of the Commander’s house? Did Nick give her away and then she managed to escape later? Did she ever find Luke or her daughter? How did Gilead end exactly? These are the questions I would have liked Atwood to cover after having gone into them in such detail.

  2. Sophi

    The difference in perspectives that you mentioned is what surprised me the most after reading the Historical Notes. We spent our time reading the last 300 pages of ONE individual’s perspective, and with such dividing constructs between the females of Gilead society, how are we to know the true feelings of the women in the story? The fact that there was possibly a much greater idea at work in Gilead also takes the focus off of Offred and onto the entire community of men and women of Gilead society. Similar to the second point you made, I also feel that the Historical Notes succeeded in taking the majority of the reader’s focus off of Offred’s life and onto the power that ruled over all the people in the story. It is acknowledged that Offred’s whereabouts after her retrieval from the house are unknown, therefore our attentions should be shifted on the society as a whole and not simply one individual of the story.

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