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This Essay Discusses "The Handmaid's Tale" By Magaret Atwood, With Particular Reference To The Historical Notes And Their Significance Adn Importance To The Whole Novel

1741 words - 7 pages

The last chapter of the novel, the historical notes, may be unsatisfying to some readers in the sense that we are still not given a conclusive end to Offred's tale. Both the reader and Professor Pieixoto are able to deduct from the "very existence of the tapes" that Offred was indeed rescued from Gilead. However, what happened to her after that? This uncertainty is reflected through what Offred herself says when the black van comes to pick her up, "And so I step up, into the darkness within; or else the light". Was Offred able to start anew, in Canada? Perhaps England? Or did the scars of Gilead mark her for life and leave her unable to adjust to her new surroundings?As readers of Offred's ...view middle of the document...

All of it is a reconstruction. It's a reconstruction now, in my head, as I lie flat on my single bed rehearsing what I should or shouldn't have said, what I should or shouldn't have done, how I should have played it." She says, "when I get out of here, if I'm ever able to set this down, in any form...it will be reconstruction then too, at yet another remove. It's impossible to say a thing exactly the way it was, because what you say can never be exact". Following this, Offred says, "you always have to leave something out, there are too many parts...too many gestures, which could mean this or that, etc".The historical notes also bring to our attention the natural human tendency to put ourselves in the best possible light, which we must remember when considering Offred's reflections on the past. She says that "when we think of the past it's the beautiful things we pick out. We want to believe it was all like that". Therefore a reader must be careful in selecting which versions are more credible, especially when we also consider her embellishment of various episodes. This can be seen when Offred attempts to retell the first time she met with Nick. She tells us of three versions of this incident, but says, "it didn't happen that way either. I'm not sure how it happened; not exactly. All I can hope for is a reconstruction". Also, another example is when she sits in the Commander's office p193, and attempts to create a more homely atmosphere by describing the light in the fireplace as "twinkling on the polished surfaces, glimmering warmly on flesh". However, as she tells us later, there was no fire, she "added the firelight in". Consequently, how is the reader to know which other bits of her tale were embellished in this way? We will never know. This presents us with a fact often overlooked, particularly by historians themselves and which is demonstrated by the historical notes. History is very fluid and quite iffy- it all depends on who is telling the story. Therefore, as readers, we must be wary of Offred's version of the truth because truth is always subjective.Now, not only do the historical notes influence the structure of the novel, they also stengthen and support the reader's interpretation of gender and power issues. Professor Pieioxto tells his audience that "men highly placed in the regime were able to pick and choose among women who had demonstrated their reproductive fitness by having produced one or more healthy children." By using the phrase 'pick and choose', the professor objectifies women just like the men in the society he is famous for studying Gileadean society did. Yes, Prof Piexoto's comments in the historical notes enforce our reaction to the attitude towards women that is presented in The Handmaid's Tale. In Gilead, women are not worthy of anything - they don't even have an identity. Offred even describes handmaids like herself as "two-legged wombs, that's all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices". They were not even considered...

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