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.

Essay by mundjo May 2004

download word file, 6 pages 4.4 1 reviews

Downloaded 69 times

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 tale, we have been through so much with her - through all her horrific experiences under the hostile Gileadean regime. Therefore, it is only natural that we are compelled to ask these questions.

However, no answer would ever be provided, even with the inclusion of the historical notes. This uncertainty is what may be so frustrating to a reader.

NEVERTHELESS, the historical notes are indeed important in shaping a reader's interpretation of the novel as a whole. Firstly, they greatly affect our understanding of the structure of the novel. From the historical notes, we see that the Handmaid's Tale was recorded only 'after' Offred escaped. Therefore, although the tale is in the present tense, hence giving it a sense of immediacy, this fact reduces Offred's credibility when she tells us of her experiences. Imagine remembering everything you did in the last two years and not only that, but also your thoughts and reactions to what happened. It would be impossible for us to write an accurate account, just as Offred wouldn't...