It could happen…

Humanity’s stress of history derives from the ramifications it has on the present, as well as model of what to avoid for the future. By including the “historical notes”, Atwood anchors a grim sense of realism to her story. These professors have names that are unfamiliar to the present, such as Crescent Moon and Piexioto. Piexioto establishes that the Republic of Gilead was demolished, and by doing so, Atwood dismantles any preconceived notion that civilization can remain static, no matter how perfect it may seem. This was dabbled in the book by the insinuation of Offred being a part of contemporary United States of America, which by a series of realistically possible events, get overthrown. Nationalism and social esteem cannot keep a country from changing. There is an instance where Professor Pieixoto elicits how the polygamy practices of Gilead derived from “early Old Testament times and in the former state of Utah in the nineteenth century” (Atwood 305). Here, Atwood presents how tangible this aberrant behavior can be, because it was something actually practiced in humanity for ages, instead of just being a work of Atwood’s imagination. The professor goes to to say that Gilead acquired racist policies that were “firmly rooted in the pre-Gilead period, and racist fears provided some of the emotional fuel that allowed the Gilead takeover to succeed” (Atwood 305). This racist quality was common, and was what advanced such detestable events in history, such as slavery and the Holocaust. Even though this is a work of fiction, Atwood manages to relate the disquieting story to that of non-fictional events to arouses a discomfort for how conceivable these events could occur, deriving from events of the past.

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2 responses to “It could happen…

  1. ashleighbarraca

    I have very similar feelings on the Historical Notes. They definitely read as a warning to modern readers: it could happen to you. I think that the lecture (in both an academic sense and a parenting sense) is meant to leave the reader feeling patronized and slightly offended by the off-handed comments made by the professor; it is to remind us that this is how we treat “primitive” civilizations when discussing history. The series of events are quite realistic, which makes the book even more of a warning. I also think the names of the professors are quite interesting – the fact that there now seem to be Native American/Inuit populations studying Caucasian culture is also Atwood’s way of saying, “Look at what we have become.”

  2. I agree with the point you make here. Looking at the Gilead period from an Anthropological stand point helps in creating a more realistic story. The lecture is mostly objective and tries to avoid ethnocentric thinking. This allows us to have insight into what was happening to have caused such a dramatic outcome. Also, the fact that the lecture focuses on Caucasian culture suggests that the race has died out, which is what the people of the pre-Gilead society feared. Seeing it from this historical view definitely allows us to draw connections with real past societies such as Nazi Germany.

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