History within Science Fiction

     At the end of The Handmaid Tale, the author “shifts gears” so to say and evaluates the story within the previous 300 pages as history. After reading the tale, I did not expect for the historical context of it to be explained at the end. Professor Piexoto places us in a different setting where he goes into explanation of the tapes found in the army locker that were said to be of recordings during Republic of Gilead.  By doing this, Piexoto somewhat “brings to life” Atwood’s story and causes the reader to believe it  was indeed non-fiction, instead of the specualtive fiction we believe it to be. Piexoto’s notion to explain why the Republic of Gilead worked the way it did  gives the tale somewhat of a reasoning. For example, when discussing polygamy, Piexoto correlates it with the Bible and how it occured during the Old Testament and even on our own territory (United States). This notion goes to give the Commander having a handmaid while being married some “just”. The historical  notes of this book contradict what we just read as spec fiction by insteaf giving it some authencity and a new genre– nonfiction. By providing this as the ending, Atwood leaves a hugw open-ended question, what happens to Offred? Did she die? Is she still free? Did she reconnect with Luke? Although providing historical context at the end of the book is a different ending to use, in this case, it was not a good idea. The historical context did help explain the tale, but at the same time, leaves us with an open imagination to wonder what happened to the main character in the book, Offred.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “History within Science Fiction

  1. I felt pretty much the same way after I read the historical notes section of The Handmaid’s Tale. I was almost surprised to find how real-to-life this closing section made Offreds’ story seem. The details involved were fascinating to me, and I rather enjoyed reading it.
    While I did enjoy reading the closing section, I have to say that I did not like the way it ended the book. Although the reader does get some sense of closure (at least with understanding a little bit more about the story), there is absolutely no sense of closure with what happened to Offred! Even though the reader can use their imagination to guess as to what happened to her, I prefer to know exactly what happened of our main character.

  2. stperry1

    I think it is an interesting risk that Margaret Atwood takes in using historical notes instead of giving the reader a complete explanation. Although these historical notes do an excellent job of making the story appear to be nonfiction, in reality the story is meant to cause speculation. By leaving the ending open Atwood forces the reader to fill in the blanks that are left behind and participate in the story. Although it is frustrating as a reader not to know what happens to the main character in any story, this particular book was meant to lead the reader down on open path and give them the opportunity to speculate.

  3. vrosengrant20

    I agree that it is disappointing to not know whether Offred became free or reunited with Luke, but this absence of information does add to the sense of realism that makes the novel feel like non-fiction. It makes sense since our own history contains missing people and questions about their fates. This kind of realism emphasizes not only the non-fiction aspect, but the desperation and hopelessness that are the tone for the first 300 pages of the novel. The historical notes allow you to have hope for the characters, but it does not confirm whether Offred’s tale ended happily or not.

  4. autumncassidy

    I found it interesting that from the Historical Notes, you justified the work as more non-fiction. From the conference, I deduced that the audience was much more skeptical of, not the authenticity, but the reality of Offred’s recordings. Multiple times throughout the text, the documents have to be validated, with the Professor even stating that analysis was run on them and that their authenticity was questioned. As a reader, it was interesting viewing that the text I had just previously read could be looked further into and criticized for possibly being inaccurate. What I had taken to be the absolute truth of Gilead was merely one individual’s experiences which may or may not be falsifiable.

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